Robert L. Blackwell of Hurdle Mills in Person County and Samuel I. Parker of Monroe in Union County were the only North Carolinians to receive the Medal of Honor for service in World War I. The award, the military’s highest, is for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.” Since the medal’s creation during the Civil War, over 3,400 men and one woman have been so cited, thirty-three from North Carolina and eight of those in World War II. The award, also called the Congressional Medal of Honor, requires the close examination of all available evidence by the military. Parker also received the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart. President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to Parker in 1936 in a White House ceremony attended by Douglas MacArthur. Samuel Parker’s brother, John J. Parker, was President Herbert Hoover’s nominee for the Supreme Court rejected by the Senate in 1930.
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Samuel Iredell Parker (nicknamed Si for his initials), a descendant of Supreme Court Justice James Iredell and Governor Abner Nash, attended the University of North Carolina, leaving for military service just prior to graduation in 1917. Part of the First Infantry Division of the American Expeditionary Force, he served on the front lines in France. Samuel J. Ervin, classmate at UNC and later U.S. senator, served in the same unit. The deed for which Parker was cited took place on July 18, 1918, near Soissons, when he advanced directly into machine gun fire, killing the gunner with his pistol. After the war Parker worked as an executive for Cone Mills and CIBA, another textile company. During World War II he trained troops at Fort Benning, penned a manual entitled Follow Me, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Upon retirement in 1956, Parker moved from New York to Concord, his wife’s hometown. He died on December 1, 1975, and is buried in Concord’s Oakwood Cemetery.
George Lang et al., comps., Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-1994 (1995)
William S. Powell, ed., North Carolina Lives: The Tar Heel Who’s Who (1962)
Monroe Enquirer, July 15, 1918
Monroe Enquirer-Journal, December 4, 1975
Congressional Record, January 19, 1976—tribute entered by Rep. Bill Hefner
The State, February 15, 1967 and July 1, 1968
Time, 18 May 1936
Congressional Medal of Honor website: