A Henry County native who joined the Tennessee National Guard as an enlisted man and rose through the ranks to retire as a brigadier general died Friday at his home.
Retired Brig. Gen. Roland L. Parkhill, 88, of Paris, is survived by his wife, Ailene Davis Parkhill; two sons, David Parkhill of Paris and Bryan Parkhill of Puryear; a sister, Rosemary King of Paris; and a grandson, Evan Parkhill.
He was the son of the late R.L. “Sonny” Parkhill and the late Lucy Rose Bomar Parkhill, who ran The Trading Post on Highway 54 west of Paris.
A 1949 graduate of Grove High School and a subsequent graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin, Parkhill said in a 2017 interview that he was attracted to the idea of military service while growing up during World War II.
“I was nine years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, so during my most informative years, all the men that I knew, practically, were in the service. My father was in the Navy, my mother’s brothers were in the Navy. I had some older first cousins that were in the Army – (so) I grew up wanting to have my own uniform,” he said.
At the age of 17, he and a friend enlisted in what is now known as the 212th Engineer Co. in Paris in April 1950 — two months before the start of the Korean War.
He spent 34 years in the National Guard, later commanding not only the Paris unit he’d joined as a teenager, but also assignments in Lenoir City, Camden, Martin and Nashville.
On Sept. 12, 1981, he was promoted to brigadier general at a ceremony in Nashville, where he assumed command of the 194th Engineer Brigade.
Parkhill retired in September 1984, but has kept up ties to his old unit and its history. In 2017, he helped The P-I pay tribute to that unit in an article marking its 100th anniversary.
“I just go out there and give them a little guidance, I guess,” Parkhill said. “I just try to stay in touch with everybody.”
After leaving the service, Parkhill spent his retirement assisting his state and community. He spent eight years as state director of the selective service system.
He was a partner in AMP Construction Company for 18 years, and spent 15 years as executive director of the Paris Housing Authority, retiring in 1997.
Parkhill was active in community service organizations and projects. In addition to service as president of organizations like the Paris Lions Club and Paris Masonic Lodge 108, he was one of the founders of the Paris-Henry County Heritage Center, and was a longtime volunteer at the Helping Hand radio auction.
On the day he was promoted from colonel to brigadier general, Parkhill said no one attained the position he had without overcoming difficulties, and without a lot of help and support.
“I’ve had the help of so many people,” he said. “I have always been surrounded by people who expected a great deal of me. They are responsible for me being where I am today.”