I was around Joe Parkhill a few times as a teenager. He was an older man then and he’d usually be reading the newspaper. On one visit to his home, I recall that he’d just returned from a trip to Dallas to visit Tom Landry, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys football team. I asked his step-daughter Linda recently if my recollection was correct. She said it was and that because of Joe’s relationship with Coach Landry, the players on the Cowboys team each ate a honey stick before games for a burst of energy.
Joe Parkhill was born in Eureka Springs in 1911, but grew up in Chicago. His grandfather was a barber whose parents had emigrated from Ireland. His grandmother was a sister to Claude Fuller.
When my father was Station Keeper at the Naval Reserve on Spring Street in the early 1960s, Joe Parkhill was also a member of the unit. I’ve heard the story that if something was needed that couldn’t be acquired through official channels, Joe might work his magic. After a trip somewhere, he’d show up bearing gifts. Joe Parkhill could wheel and deal with the best of them.
At some point, Joe Parkhill fell in love with honey bees. He was appointed director of the Arkansas Apiary (Bee) Board by Governor Faubus and he ran with it. He crisscrossed the state promoting honey bees and it is said that during his tenure, Arkansas went from last place in the nation in honey production to eighth place. He pushed through the honey bee becoming the state insect of Arkansas. A natural at marketing, Joe had a radio show and appeared on television. He compiled several honey cookbooks and served as President of the American Beekeeping Federation. He lectured in Japan and travelled to the Soviet Union to represent the United States bee industry.
I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve left out his rumored link to Al Capone and the slot machines at the Basin Park Hotel, and his friendships with characters ranging from Jim Bakker to Bill Clinton. And, of course, he played the drums.