Seeking tributes to Don Parker

Update: We regret to write that Don passed away last night. 

Longtime local radio personality, author and playwright Don Parker is battling stage-four pancreatic cancer.  Inweekly is seeking tributes and stories of a person who has been considered one of Pensacola’s funniest people for over three decades. Please post in the comments or email me at

Born in Hartsdale, N.Y., Don moved to Pensacola with his family when he was 14 and quickly became known as the class clown at Pensacola High School.

After a two-year stint in the Navy, he worked for a local ambulance service before being hired as a communications dispatcher for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. For the next 18 years, Don worked his way up the ranks to captain and became the spokesperson for Sheriff Royal Untreiner and Sheriff Vince Sealy. He retired in 1989.

Don was a member of the first Leadership Pensacola class in 1983. The following year, he took over as master of ceremonies for the Pensacola Chamber’s Gopher Club. Don was a master storyteller. Most of his stories made fun of himself as a Barney Fife-type of deputy.

During the 80s and 90s, Don was a much sought-after public speaker, emcee, telethon host, radio guest and BLAB-TV host. He had a regular column in the Gulf Breeze Sentinel.

In 1988, he published his first book, “You’re Under Arrest … I’m Not Kidding,” a humorous collection of his experiences in law enforcement. In two years, Don sold 5,000 hardcover copies and 3,000 paperbacks, primarily through word of mouth.

Commenter Paul Harvey read one of his chapters on-air. He made appearances on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

Don published two other books—“Officer Needs Assistance…Again” and “You Have the Right to Remain Silent”—that also were well received.

In retirement, he created “Star Points,” a television series for Law Enforcement Television Network. He wrote plays, including a two-act comedy, “The Elevator,” about five strangers trapped in an elevator on Christmas Eve. He also acted. His first role was Victor Velasco in “Barefoot in the Park.” Don remained a mainstay of the Pensacola Little Theatre for several years.

In the early 90s, he joined WCOA, often co-hosting with Luke McCoy both in the morning and late afternoon hours. He has greeted area listeners for thirty years as they wake and drive into work on WCOA’s “Good Morning Pensacola.”

Don also co-hosted “Pensacola Speaks” with me during my three-year stint with the station. His sense of humor resonated with listeners, and I loved to hear his stories.

Please add your tributes to the comments here and on my Facebook page. We will share them with Don.



16 thoughts on “Seeking tributes to Don Parker

  1. Don and I were assigned to the Radio Room under Sgt. John Greathouse shortly after being hired by the SO, while awaiting “Rookie” school. His wit and humor was apparent from the beginning. There were few dull moments in the Radio Room when he was working. We later worked together in the Administration Division under Sheriff Vince Seely. He was always worked hard and was respected by his colleagues as well as the public. We stayed in touch from time to time after I left the SO for the Honolulu Police Dept. My wife, Toni and I will miss him terribly.

    During my tour at the SO I put together a couple of tour packages to Hawaii for some our colleagues and their wives and Don was part of both groups. He was great to travel with.
    He displayed his showmanship and humor when he was selected from the audience to participate with Hawaiian dancers at a Luau in Honolulu. I don’t think the band knew what they had done. He almost stole the show. Lots of fun.

    I still have a lot of other fond memories from working and socializing with him.

    RIP “Good Buddy”

  2. Don never forgot a name – or a face. He once responded to a fight at Tate High School circa 1981. Two big football types were hammering each other with a crowd gathering. Don waded right in and grabbed BOTH of them with the strength of an ox. He separated them both and looked directly at me and said, “WHO ARE THEY?” I sung like a canary. Fast forward 20+ years and I am working at WCOA part-time in the news division while stationed in Pensacola. Don introduced himself and started interrogating me immediately. “Haven’t I met you before? Where did you go to school?”, etc. Within seconds, he recalled the details of that day. I was stunned. A funny guy, brilliant mind and brave as they come. He made me feel like part of the team. America needs more like him. May his memory be eternal.

  3. I go way back with Don and enjoyed working with him. He has a special place in Pensacola broadcast history. He was always the ultimate professional; his interest in people and his curiosity to learn always made Don a fantastic interviewer. He was a wonderful guy and I will miss his unique flair. God bless you Don, I know you are in heaven and in the best studio you have ever worked in !

  4. Don was a good friend and co-worker. We both drove ambulances before going to work at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. During his time at the Sheriff’s Office we occasionally backed each other on calls and I never had to worry about him having my back. He was a great Deputy Sheriff and a very funny guy. He was always good for a laugh. It was my honor to have worked with him and he will be missed. RIP BROTHER.

  5. I spent a few years working at Cumulus after they acquired our radio stations. In tbe hallway by tbe studio, there were photos of the three guys who were on air: Don, Jim Sanborn and Bryan Newkirk.

    Jim was in a sweatshirt, jeans and ball cap. Bryan was in a golf shirt. Don in a white shirt and tie. I used to joke that it depicted the 3 little pigs. Don was the one who made his home from bricks, and that’s what he was for that radio station – solid as a brick.

    But… really, he always wore a tie to a radio station, who does that? RIP, Don.

  6. Don was a great guy. I met him while co-hosting our ECSO program on WCOA. He always told me the same story about when a cup of change was stolen from his car. The story was very important for Don to share with his listeners because as former law enforcement, he knew how the crime appeared to be “small”, but because he reported it the suspect was caught. It was a teaching moment. I appreciated his willingness to educate our community and always add a little laughter while doing so. You will be missed! My thoughts and prayers are with his family,

  7. I worked with Don at Escambia County Sheriff, he was a good officer, the Barney Fife moniker was a put on. Don when confronted could be formidable opponent. Many bad guys would take Don on to find themselves on the receiving end of Don’s capability. I had no problem going through a door with him and considered him a friend. I will miss him.

  8. It is heart breaking that Don has passed away. Don and I have been good friends since 1980. Don was instrumental in my career when we implemented one of the first in-house, lawenforcement Crime Victim Services Programs in the State of Florida, at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department/Office. He taught me to do lectures with him re Crime Victims’ Rights, our Victim Services Program and Prevention Awareness. Don assisted me in writing VOCA Grants so that I could have assistance to serve crime victims. Don also was great in our All Bee Sheriff’s Office Band. I’ll always cherish memories we shared throughout our careers, his humor was always uplifting and our talks we had over the last few months. RIP my forever friend!♥️💙

  9. Don was a close friend for over 50
    Years. His quick wit never ceased to amaze me. There will never be another like him.

  10. I only knew Don as the competition. WCOA had the heritage signal in the market, and it was a challenge from my first day.
    In person, a funny, self-deprecating guy, who was warm and welcoming. I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago, thanking him for his professional friendship and congratulating him on entertaining and informing generations of folks in Pensacola.

  11. Don was always so thoughtful and engaging. I always enjoyed talking on air with him, and the conversations we’d have before going live. He was a great man, and I’m sorry to hear of his passing.

  12. Very saddened to hear of Don’s passing. I have known him since the early nineties, working with him in many capacities, first in radio, but also in theatre and then later in law enforcement. As he was a former PIO with several legendary (and hilarious) books to his credit, we always looked to Don to emcee ECSO events. Always a ready wit, I will remember his practical jokes on Luke McCoy and his stellar performance roasting Sheriff David Morgan. I loved being invited to co-host the morning show sometimes when Jim Sanborn was off and I never missed the yearly Christmas party at Krispy Kreme. So many memories. I will miss him.
    His family is in my prayers.

  13. I always looked forward to being interviewed by Don. He had a great sense of humor and quick wit. And he was always very good about sharing pertinent election information with WCOA’s listeners. May he rest in peace.

  14. Don emceed our fundraiser “Chocolate Fest” to benefit Gulf Coast Kid’s House to allow us to raise much needed funds to serve victims of child abuse in our community. His connection to our mission through law enforcement was always evident and he will be truly missed by our organization.

  15. Don is the quintessential gentleman. He has emceed Chocolate Fest for Gulf Coast Kid’s House since at least 2010. His humor and kindness are infectious. We are sending every prayer his way.

  16. My thoughts and prayers are with Don. He always treated me so well when interviewing me on the radio. He always made me laugh and made me feel so comfortable. Such a great guy.

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