Parks Holman Snead, Jr.
Remembering Parks Snead, Jr.
By Jane Baber White, Director Emeritus of Old City Cemetery
*Please click on each photo to enlarge it*
Parks Snead, Jr., died December 1, 2017, after a relatively long illness, but thankfully the evidence of his work, his creativity, and his gifts to the Old City Cemetery are with us forever.
Parks was a “character” in every wonderful sense of the word. He served on the Community Board of Advisors of the Southern Memorial Association, as well as its successor organization, the SMA Board of Directors, for many years. Always a supportive friend, he was a costumed docent from time to time and fixed broken tombstones, but his enormous gifts were his architectural contributions, which are the backbone of today’s Old City Cemetery. For those who may not be as familiar with the history of the Cemetery, it has not always appeared as it does today. Parks Snead, Jr., was the architect for each of these structures that now fit so comfortably into the cemetery landscape:
- Gatehouse (1997) at Fourth and Taylor Streets, which enhanced the approach to the cemetery as more and more visitors recognized the fascinating history being revealed beyond the gates,
- Original Cemetery Center (1997–1998) and its several later additions as the mission and activities of the SMA grew through the years,
- Hearse House and Caretakers’ Museum (1999)
- Foundation and reconstruction of the Station House Museum (2001),
- Dolan Memorial Dovecote (2007), and
- Bicentennial Chapel and Columbarium (2005–2006) – probably his crowning achievement!
Parks’ architectural drawings, always completely hand drawn, were true works of art, down to rendering the knot holes in the lumber for the studs or beams in the ceiling! He would use up “thousands” of erasers as revisions evolved. His artistic eye and sense of proportion, classic style and good taste were evident in every detail.
Parks’ lifetime dear friend was Charley Hurt (of Hurt & Proffitt), who was also on the Board. They were an inseparable pair and fed on each other with stories and constant alternating verbal banter. Parks would draw and Charlie would apply his engineering stamp of approval.
Before the last renovation/addition to the Cemetery Center, the large multipurpose room on the ground level also functioned as a space for special exhibits. The first exhibit held was a showcase for the “Architectural Renderings of Parks H. Snead, Jr.” It opened on October 17, 2003, and featured 21 architectural renderings of buildings in the City of Lynchburg. Ranging from well-known churches to businesses and residences, to the buildings in the Old City Cemetery, each was an original work of art. Many were designed when he was employed by Garland Gay & Associates (1953–1970), but others were his commissions as an independent artist. Regardless, they are all now familiar landmarks in our city and in our cemetery.
There were so many ways to remember Parks, but his distinctive, eloquent manner of speech was delightful and refreshing in a charming old-fashioned way. It was such a contrast to his sort of bombastic manner. He was so proud of his son, Parks Snead, III, Lynchburg’s former Chief of Police (whom he boasted could have been president of the United States) and of his grandchildren Hannah and Parks, IV, who were brilliant beyond his wildest dreams. And he had equal pride in his wife of 64 years, Bessie, who knew every detail of every branch of Lynchburg city government since she had been secretary to City Manager Robert D. Morrison and was clerk of City Council for many years.
Parks was a true Renaissance man. His interests ranged from architecture to aviation, farming to collecting historical relicts, storytelling to adventures of all sorts—whether on foot, by truck, or in the air. There was always a story that followed. He might appear to be a curmudgeon, but when he opened his mouth, out came the most eloquent, poetic, beautiful language. He was always a gentleman and indeed a very special friend to the Old City Cemetery.
He will be missed, and always fondly remembered. Just look around next time you drive through the Cemetery. You will see Parks’ works at every turn.
Editor’s Note: Parks’ ashes were inurned in the Columbarium he designed on December 14, 2017. His niche is located in the Lily Section, immediately above the niche of his friend and collaborator Charley Hurt.