published Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Smith labeled as talented, troubled

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Longtime Chattanooga radio personality Richard Parker Smith, who died Wednesday morning, generally was regarded as a talented but sometimes troubled man, friends and co-workers said.

“He was gifted to the point of torment,” said former co-host Jason Walker, “and the saddest part of losing my friend is the potential he left unrealized.”

Smith, 48, died unexpectedly at home, according to his brother Greg Smith, who said the family is dealing with the sudden loss, and funeral plans are being finalized.

“It is a fairly large family with a lot of people involved, and we want to do this thing right,” he said.

Parker Smith’s radio career began in 1981 when he became the weekend radio news reporter at WDXB-AM. He later worked as the overnight disc jockey at WFLI-AM before teaming up with Bill Burkett at WDOD-AM in the mid-1980s.

In 1986, while he was at WDOD, Smith made news by being invited to the White House after he sent President Reagan a letter offering his support and detailing a radio poll he had done in which 81 of 86 respondents said America should bomb Libya.

His story was twisted and retold in a couple of newspapers and, for a while, Smith was known here and in Washington, D.C., as the DJ that wanted to blow up Libya.

His last radio job was at WDOD-FM, where he teamed with Walker.

“As a new kid in radio, I wasn’t prepared for my first morning show with Parker,” Walker said. “It was akin to waking up pinned by a steamroller.

“Years later, I’d be brought back to him far more grown-up and prepared to endure his concentrated abuse. Parker analyzed you with laser accuracy and used your deepest innermost weaknesses to make great radio. If you could take it, you would never have a better time standing behind a microphone.”

Smith was hired, and fired, from WDOD by station manager Danny Howard.

“I worked with Parker on three distinct occasions since coming to Chattanooga (in 1990),” Howard said. “First at WLMX-FM, and later he did two stints at The Mountain (WDOD). He was uniquely Parker.

“He had an undeniably unique ability to get a reaction, whether it was positive or negative.”

WGOW-FM “Sport Talk” co-host Scott “Quake” McMahan worked with Smith from 1994 to 1996 as the talk-radio trend was catching on.

“He worked with Kevin West on a show called ‘Smith and West.’ It was wild. They would bring in transvestites or whatever. It was Jerry Springer on the radio.

“Honestly, he was probably the most talented person I have ever worked with, but he could not seem to get it all pointed in the right direction.

“I can’t say I’m shocked (at his death). He seemed like he was always chasing demons.”

While at WDOD, Smith befriended longtime WDEF personality Luther Massengill. The two stations are in the same building on Broad Street and the two remained friends.

“He had his mellow side, and he was outspoken, too,” Massengill said. “He’d tell you what he thought right quick.”

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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senyahc said...

I really missed him on the radio. I never listened to talk radio until he came on the air... and haven't listened since. RIP Parker! Secret Agent Man to the end!

August 5, 2010 at 7:49 a.m.
maggs55 said...

One of the funniest guys on the radio. I loved his witt and controversy. I had a long drive to work every morning and he made it seem short, laughed til I cried many times on my way in.

August 5, 2010 at 8:01 a.m.
KennyRay said...

No one could provoke me to anger faster than Parker Smith. We had many intense email battles....but after it was all said and done, we hugged and became friends. I'll miss you my friend!

August 5, 2010 at 8:16 a.m.
eeeeeek said...

We'll miss Parker... We've always enjoyed his entertainment.

August 5, 2010 at 8:32 a.m.
Starpoint said...

"I hung out with Parker after he was laid off from WDOD. We would sit and chat for hours discussing problems he had. Havn't really listened to the morning show now that he's no longer there. He was by far the wittiest radio personality around. I will miss him dearly. RIP my friend.

August 5, 2010 at 8:48 a.m.
Dianek1954 said...

Parker was the funniest entertainer in radio I've known, but he was also very opinionated person specially on the things he believed in. I will truely miss him.

August 5, 2010 at 8:50 a.m.
seadub2 said...

So sad to watch such a talented personality just flush his life away. Parker faced inner demons he could not control or subdue. They finally caught up with him. I hope that he has finally found peace.

August 5, 2010 at 9:13 a.m.
scooterman said...

Parker has been a family friend for many years, and will be missed. His family will be in our thoughts and prayers.

August 5, 2010 at 10:09 a.m.
Ang said...

RIP Parker. I have known Parker for many years, he has been a large part of my life. He was a kind man that I loved dearly for that. He will be dearly missed and always loved by me. My thoughts and prayers are with the family as they go through this difficult time.

August 5, 2010 at 10:25 a.m.
Angelia said...

Parker and I were married for nearly 8 years and even though our marriage ended, I will always regard him as absolutely the most talented person I've ever known. He lived his life exactly as he wanted, for better or worse and there is a certain beauty in that. I hope he's found the peace he always wanted.

August 5, 2010 at 10:39 a.m.
maliblue said...

Why would you post that picture of Parker for his fond farewell to Chattanooga? Isn't there another picture of him somewhere with all the years he served Chattanooga that you can find? That is just not how he would want to be remembered. As a matter of fact, he would be horribly upset by it. I also HATE the title of your article. Parker may have been troubled but he certainly did NOT need that headline. You clearly didn't know the real Parker..

August 5, 2010 at 11:39 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

I agree maliblue...its typical of the new National Inquirer approach the TFP is taking...so sad to see in what at one time was a nationally respected paper.

August 5, 2010 at 12:02 p.m.
slipshuck said...

one of a kind...radio will never be that funny again...the "meetings" are lengendary...may you rest in peace and please know that you will never be forgotten...

August 5, 2010 at 12:20 p.m.
Kennedyfoot said...

RP-we also did our fair share of debates. You always figured out how to strike a nerve and get someone going quick. Glad you are in heaven with my Steve, as well as Johnny Carson. Sure miss you on the radio. Much love.

August 5, 2010 at 3:20 p.m.
nagdt said...

RIP Parker. Times Free Press, please put a different picture of him up here!!

August 5, 2010 at 4:32 p.m.
me said...

I have to agree, that has to be the worse picture TFP could have dug up. I have not seen Parker since 82 but I am sure a little respect from TFP would have been appreciated from all the people that love'ed and appreciated Parker and his talent. From what I have read on this thread TFP could have used a talented man like Parker to keep them from, what was that earlier quote, "typical of the new National Inquirer approach". At least Parker would make his stories exciting, and in many way to many of up "EDUCATIONAL".

Thanks for the world you opened my eyes to Parker, with out him holding my hand there are many business in Chattanooga such as Memo's that I would have never dreamed of going into.

Parker as troubled as he may have been he lived life to the fullest every time I was in his company, he encourage me to go just a little out of my norm.

me

August 5, 2010 at 10:08 p.m.
incavenow said...

Parker is the first radio talk show host whom my wife and I both agreed we liked, along with being the first who I ever really paid any attention to. I missed him greatly when he left the air and have yet to hear anyone as interesting to listen to in the mornings. I have always hoped he would return to a radio talk show, I would have listened to him on any station. His passing has truly left a void in many of our hearts. It would have been better if TFP could have shown a little more respect in how they handled this, but I give thanks to TFP for letting me know of this sad event.

August 5, 2010 at 10:45 p.m.
Kristi said...

I remember driving to school and allowing myself to get so emotionally invested into Parker's conversations. Later in life, I would have the honor of being Parker's next door neighbor. This larger than life person was so inviting and warm. He was a great neighbor, and my husband and I will miss seeing him around town. Rest in peace, dear friend. Chattanooga will always remember your talent and gentle spirit.

August 5, 2010 at 11:51 p.m.
rcalvinmilam said...

Poor Richard. If y'all thought he was funny on the radio, you should've been on the McCallie bus with him and Smoky Wild and Charlie Britton.

'S shame he could never get sober. Rock on, man.

August 6, 2010 at 1:24 a.m.
kevincash said...

I can't believe this news. Parker was one of the most talented radio personalities I worked with. I will always remember our time together, forever. Parker I will miss you. I will miss the meetings you called. You made me grow as a person on the radio. I learned what true talent is when I worked with you. You were the most genuine person on the radio even if it got you in trouble sometimes, the people listened and enjoyed...as did I! I was your biggest fan!

Kevin Cash aka 'Speedy' Producer in the mid 90's on 102.3 Real Radio

August 6, 2010 at 1:33 a.m.
darlenee said...

God has a great man waiting at his gate to get in. open the gate hand him a cold one and enjoy him as much as we did.

August 6, 2010 at 4:08 a.m.
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