May 16, 2012
Durham, N.C. — Former Duke gridiron standout Clarence “Ace” Parker – the oldest living member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame – will celebrate his 100th birthday on Thursday in Portsmouth, Va.
Parker also is the second-oldest living Major League Baseball player, trailing only Connie Marrero, who was born on April 25, 1911.
Born on May 17, 1912, Parker was reared in Virginia’s Tidewater area and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth, Va., in 1933. Parker then matriculated to Duke, where he lettered three seasons (1934-35-36) in football under Hall of Fame head coach Wallace Wade. On the gridiron, Parker twice earned All-America honors as a Blue Devil, receiving a second team citation as a junior before garnering consensus first team accolades following his senior campaign.
Parker helped Duke to a three-year ledger of 24-5 (.828) with a pair of Southern Conference championships in 1935 and 1936. In his final season, he served as team captain as the Blue Devils went 9-1, captured the league title with a perfect 7-0 record and finished the season ranked 11th in the final Associated Press national poll.
Playing primarily as a quarterback, Parker set school records for rushing yards in a season (884 in 1935) and career (1,856), total points in a career (134) and touchdowns scored in a career (21). He also holds the school record for longest kickoff return with an 105-yard effort versus North Carolina in 1936.
Parker, who also played basketball and baseball at Duke, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1955.
A second round pick of the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937, Parker’s professional football career was highlighted by his league MVP trophy earned in 1940. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
Parker also played Major League Baseball with the Philadelphia Athletics, making his debut on April 24, 1937. He is one of just 111 players in league history to belt a home run in his first at bat. Additionally, he was the first of the seven all-time players to hit a home run in his first MLB at bat as a pinch hitter.
A veteran of World War II, Parker returned to his alma mater to serve as an assistant football coach (1947-65) and head baseball coach (1953-66). On the diamond, Parker guided the Blue Devils to a 166-162-4 overall record including one Southern Conference championship (1953), two ACC titles (1956 & 1957) and two College World Series appearances (1953 & 1961).
Parker also is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame (inducted in 1963), Virginia Sports Hall of Fame (inducted in 1972) and Duke Athletics Hall of Fame (inducted in 1975).