Surry County Biographies

Roy H. Park

Source: Wikipedia.org

Roy Hampton Park (15 September 1910 -- October 1993) was an American media executive and entrepreneur.

Park was born in Dobson, North Carolina, the son of a tenant farmer. He began writing for two local North Carolina newspapers at the age of 12; although he suffered a severe bout with rheumatic fever at 13, Park graduated from Dobson High School at the age of 15 and followed his brother to North Carolina State University.

After crashing his brother's automobile, Park took his first job to pay off the damages; this job was at the local Associated Press bureau, where he worked his way up from office boy to reporter by the time of this graduation from college. He also wrote for the college's student newspaper, Technician, and extended his term of study at college so that he could serve as the paper's editor-in-chief. Upon graduation in 1931 with a degree in business administration, he was awarded the senior superlative of "Best Writer."

After gradutation, Park accepted the position of public relations director for the North Carolina Cotton Growers Cooperative Association; there, he pioneered innovative ways of promoting cotton, including "Cotton Balls," with dancers and performers dressed in cotton formal wear. In 1936, he married Dorothy Goodwin Dent, one of the "Maids of Cotton," whom he met prior to these events.

At the Cotton Cooperative, Park founded and published three periodicals, the Carolina Cooperator, the Rural Electricification Guide, and Cooperative Digest and Farm Power, which attracted the attention of H. E. Babcock, the founder of the Grange League Federation. Babcock offered Park a position at the agency, in Ithaca, New York, which Park accepted in 1942.

In the late 1940s, the Grange approached Park to find a way to market their excess food products; Park approached well-known food critic Duncan Hines to lend his name to a brand of packaged food products. The resulting company, Hines-Park Foods, was a stunning success in the American food market, especially with its flagship product, Duncan Hines Cake Mix. Only five years after releasing its first products, Hines-Park was acquired by Procter & Gamble in 1956. Park stayed with Procter & Gamble as a senior executive until 1962.

Park began building a communications consortium in 1961; his company, Park Broadcasting, Inc., acquired Greenville, North Carolina station WNCT-TV, by 1977, he was the first broadcaster to acquire seven television stations, seven AM radio, and seven FM radio stations -- the legal limit at the time. He expanded into the newspaper arena with the acquisition of the Warner Robins, Georgia Daily Sun in 1972, eventually acquiring dozens of papers in 24 states. Most of his acquisitions were in medium-sized markets.

Park changed the name of the company and went public in 1983, and at the time of his death, Park Communications controlled 21 radio stations, seven television stations, and 144 publications; the company's market reach was estimated at one quarter of all American households and employeed over 3,000 people. As the conglomerate grew, he often said that he did not sell media properties, he bought them. Park Communications was bought by Media General in 1996.

Park, who in 1993 was listed by Forbes as the 40th richest man in the U.S., continued to reside in Ithaca, New York for the remainder of his life, where he sat on the Ithaca College Board of Trustees and the Advisory Council of Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management. He also maintained connections to his native state, sitting on the Board of Visitors for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and on the Board of Trustees of North Carolina State University.

Late in life, Park was recognized multiple times by his home state; North Carolina State University awarded him its highest honor, the Watauga Medal, in 1975, and an honorary doctorate in 1978. In 1989, the state of North Carolina presented him with its highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award.

Park died in 1993, but left a legacy on American education. Ithaca College named its communications school after him in 1989, and the Park Foundation supports undergraduate scholarship programs at Ithaca College and NCSU in addition to public television and environmental causes. Triad Foundation, formed by the Park Family, funds the Roy H. Park Fellowships at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in addition to marine and tropical ecology and medical and scientific research.

In June 2003, the directors of Triad Foundation, Inc. announced that the Triad Foundation had assumed full responsibility for the Park Leadership Fellows Program at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and had re-named the fellowships the "Roy H. Park Leadership Fellowships."

"The new name reflects the desire of the Triad directors to honor the legacy of my father, Roy H. Park," explained Roy H. Park, Jr. president and chairman of the Triad Foundation. He noted that there will be no change in the management of the fellowship program, which since 1997 has provided over $12 million to support tuition, stipends and enrichment opportunities for nearly 170 students.

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This page was last updated October 10, 2010.

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