Earl Freudenberg: Julius Parker’s Advice

  • Saturday, July 6, 2024
  • Earl Freudenberg
Julius Parker
Julius Parker

I never worked for a newspaper, but I learned so much from many of the veteran writers and photographers for the Chattanooga News Free Press and Chattanooga Times.  One of my mentors was the late Julius Parker who was a great newspaper writer before being assigned to the city desk at the News Free Press.

“Parker and People” was a favorite Sunday column for years.   I remember in the 1960’s going with WDOD station manager Bill Nash to have coffee with Mr. Parker at the Quickie Restaurant on Georgia Avenue across from the downtown Federal Building.  Mr. Nash was good friends with Mr. Parker and the two had some very interesting stories, including their coverage of the 1964 Jimmy Hoffa trial.

Mr. Nash covered the Hoffa trial for WRCB TV and Mr. Parker for the Free Press. 

One morning Mr. Parker offered me some valuable advice in covering news, “Earl, always look for the Chattanooga angle. If you ask enough questions and look hard enough, you’ll usually find a connection to some of the most interesting local stories."

Mr. Parker’s advice was especially true in music. For instance the Gospel song “Listen to the Bells” was recorded in 1949 by Hovie Lister and the Statesmen Quartet.  It was written by the late Lee Roy Abernathy.  Southern Gospel Hall of Fame pianist Dickie Mathews of Chattanooga said Abernathy was part of a Saturday night Gospel Singing at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium and it began to snow so his group checked into the Read House.  Mathews said when Abernathy got up Sunday morning he went outside the hotel and the ground was covered with snow, three or four inches. Mathews said, “Abernathy listened intently to the downtown church bells ringing and penned the song; the Statesmen recorded it.” 

Decades later, several groups recorded “Listen to the Bells,” including Gospel Bluegrass singers Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, and the Billy Gray Quartet from Rising Fawn, Ga.

I found the Statesman recording on a Capitol Records most interesting.  It featured tenor singer Cat Freeman who was from Fyffe, Ala., on Sand Mountain.  Freeman was the brother of Vestal Goodman with the Happy Goodman Family. The late Hamilton County Commissioner Curtis Adams knew Freeman very well and called him an “Alabama Treasure.” Adams said Freeman sang in a lot of Chattanooga area churches including his father’s church in Alton Park.

In addition to Hovie Lister and Cat Freeman, the Statesmen recording featured Jake Hess, Bervin Kendrick and Big Chief Wetherington. All sang many times on the Memorial Auditorium stage.

Yes, Julius Parker had some good advice for this old radio journalist.  “If you ask the right questions, you’ll get the story with the local connection.”

“Listen to the Bells” – Statesmen Quartet



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Earl Freudenberg: Julius Parker’s Advice
Earl Freudenberg: Julius Parker’s Advice
  • 7/6/2024

I never worked for a newspaper, but I learned so much from many of the veteran writers and photographers for the Chattanooga News Free Press and Chattanooga Times. One of my mentors was the late ... more