State Representative Bobby Parham 1941-2017

Long-time State Representative served Balwdin County, State of Georgia for 45 years
Former State Reprsentative Bobby Parham qualifying for his final election in 2008.
Former State Reprsentative Bobby Parham qualifying for his final election in 2008.

Baldwin and Putman counties said goodbye to a long time public servant this week.

Bobby Parham represented Baldwin County at the local and state level for more than a generation. His tenure bridged the democratic party politics of old to the modern republican rule of today.

The WRGC News Desk has this Appreciation

At the end of his career in the State House of Representatives, Bobby Parham was a man from another era in Georgia Politics.

First elected in 1974, Parham entered the legislatures’ lower chamber near the end of one-party rule under the Democrats, and spent the last half of his 35-year tenure watching the rising tide of republican control.
 
Under democratic leadership, Parham rose through the ranks, sitting on powerful committees like Rules and Appropriations. It was this behind the scenes committee work, his understanding of parliamentary procedure and group dynamics and his dedication to the voters in Baldwin County that earned Parham 17 return trips to the Gold Dome in Atlanta.
 
“He was under the philosophy of definitely working hard and working the long hours when he was committee chairmanship. You'd see him still at cap at seven eight o’clock nine o’clock at night meeting with the lieutenant governor, speaker of the house to talk about transportation legislation--he was chair of that committee.
“His time was the community's time, his time was the state time when it came to issues and so forth.”
 
Former State Representative Rusty Kidd succeeded Parham in the Georgia House of Representatives. But their relationship dated back to the early days when Parham worked for long-time state Senator Culver Kidd at the family’s drug store in downtown Milledgeville. Parham and Rusty Kidd also worked together in the late 90s and early 2000s when Kidd was a lobbyist in the state legislature.
 
Kidd said that despite the changing political fashions in Atlanta, Parham stayed true to the democratic party and the voters who sent him to the capital.
 
“When the republicans took over he remained a democrat. A lot of democrats changed over, but he didn't change over. He stayed a democrat until he decided to resign in 2009.”
 
Bobby Eugene Parham was born November 6, 1941 to Robert and Sarah Parham. His father Robert was a beneficiary of the patronage system in Georgia politics and gave Bobby the middle name Eugene in honor of Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge. The elder Parham’s support of the Talmadge administration also secured him a job at Central State Hospital. And its there that Bobby Parham learned about politics and the importance of looking after one’s fellow man.
 
Former Baldwin County Manager Joan Minton
 
“Bobby was a very caring person he was a people person he would always try to help find a solution to help someone with their problems because he cared about their problems. And that made him a good representative and public official, because he truly cared about people and helping them make their life better.”
 
Parham came of age at the height of Central State Hospital. That proximity undoubtedly weighed in on his decision to attend Pharmacy School at the University of Georgia. He graduated in 1963 and started the Medical Arts Pharmacy in Milledgeville that next year.
 
In a 2009 interview with the Union-Recorder, Parham said that working as a small-town pharmacist was a lot like being a public servant. So in 1968, after several years as a small business owner, Parham ran for and won a seat on the Baldwin County Commission.
 
Parham characterized his six years on the county commission as a time in which the community was modernizing and moving in a more progressive direction. During his tenure, Baldwin County expanded the airport and initiated its first countywide solid waste disposal system.
 
Joan Minton remembers it as a time when Parham and other commissioners took a chance and opened Baldwin County Government to its first female administrator.
 
“He always enjoyed telling people he hired me because I had a long career there and i cert appreciated him giving me that opportunity, because as a female doing those kinds of jobs that turned into the county managers job were not done by females. And I appreciate him having the foresight to give me that opportunity.”
 
But the 1970s and the administration of then governor Jimmy Carter spelled real trouble for the state’s lone mental institution, the former Central State Hospital. Parham saw the goings on as a challenge and followed his ambitions to the state capital in Atlanta.

During his 35 years representing Baldwin and Putnam counties, Parham tried his best to learn the levers of power and work them for the benefit of his district. Money for Central State Hospital, Baldwin County’s three colleges, five state prisons and the roads that connect all of those assets was the goal, and as many times as not Parham and other members of the local delegation were able to get what they were after.

Former state Rep Kidd describes advice passed down through generations of Baldwin County legislators.

“He relayed on thing to me that my daddy had relayed to him and that was always keep your powder dry and by that he meant by that was never commit to early on a piece of the governor’s legislation as to how you're going to vote because at some point in time the governor's going to call you in and ask you how you're going to vote as he did bobby Parham…”

Parham’s low, raspy voice and understated style did not earn him attention like some of his contemporaries. But it was his quiet diligence, longevity and dedication to his community that made him a valued colleague and representative under the Gold Dome.

“When you look around Milledgeville Baldwin County, Georgia College, the Technical College, GMC and all of the state functions, he played a major role in that. So that's a part of his legacy.”

Former State Senator Floyd Griffin worked with Bobby Parham for four years in the Georgia General Assembly. It was Griffin who introduced legislation to rename the Central State Hospital Kitchen—the largest in the world at that time—in Parham’s honor.

“I was very proud to be able to recognize someone who had done something great for our community and recognize him while he was living.”

Bobby Parham resigned from the state House of Representatives in 2009 to fill a vacancy on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board.  He remained in that position until being voted out of office. He retired from public life in 2013.
 
 In a Union-Recorder article describing the transition from elected representative to appointed official, Parham apologized to constituents for the sudden shake up in the district’s local delegation. He also offered a keen observation that bears repeating in these days that are so rife with political turmoil.

“It’s good to keep politics on the mind because change can come by quite quickly if you’re not watching. Democracies are run by the people who watch those that are representing them.”

Bobby Eugene Parham passed away Monday, February 6th. He was 75 years old.

For the WRGC News Desk in Milledgeville, I’m Daniel McDonald.