Legendary legislator, litigator winds down with wood carving
Used to be when Carl Parker took someone to the woodshed, they’d better get ready to write a very large check or at least prepare to rewrite their policy manuals.
But the longtime lawmaker and well-known Port Arthur attorney goes to his wood shop these days to relax.
“You don’t worry about the next lawsuit when you’re out there trying to make a piece of wood look like a human ear,” says Parker, now 80 and a couple of decades removed from being one of the most prolific legislators in Texas history, with more than 400 bills he sponsored during his 30-plus years in the state Capitol now among the laws of the land.
Parker stays busy with his law practice these days. And the son of a Port Arthur mayor still cuts a pretty wide swath as a civic leader in his hometown. But more and more of his evenings are spent turning blocks of wood into works of art.
And this month, at the Texas Artists Museum, Parker has consented to the first showing of his whimsical woodcarvings, which range from farmers and the tractor they rode in on to some really tall sports figures and Santa’s workshop, complete with an assortment of elves.
“I’ve been fooling with woodwork since I was 3 or 4 years old,” Parker said. “When I was in grade school, they had a woodshop in our school. I still have some shelves I made for my mother around here somewhere.
“But I’ve only been serious about woodcarving for about three or four years.”
It’s a happy coincidence that Parker’s show is timed along with another at TAM by Lamar State College-Port Arthur, since the former state senator has been one of the school’s biggest backers. Like Parker’s carvings, the exhibit “LSC-PA Art Connections,” can be seen throughout October from noon to 4:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays at the museum, which is located at 3501 Cultural Center Drive in Port Arthur.
While many of the 100-plus items on display by the LSC-PA current and former students, staffers and family of staffers can be purchased, Parker is not looking to cash in on his new pastime.
“I just do this for fun,” he said. “I give a lot of them away.”
Parker said woodcarving takes him back to his youth.
“When I was a little kid, I used to carve model airplanes. I used to like that,” he said. “Now, if I don’t have something I’ve got to do at night, I’ll go out there for an hour or two and piddle around in my workshop.
“It’s very relaxing.”