Doug Parsons was larger than life. Tall, lanky and with compassionate eyes that danced with joy, he commanded a room each time he walked into it. Yet it wasn’t those things that drew people to him; instead it was that smooth, southern voice, always cordial, always soothing, always caring that urged you to come closer, sit and share a few minutes. And his laugh — sincere, warm and full of life — made you want to stay.
His death over the weekend has stunned us all, for Parsons was someone you just knew would be with us forever. Perhaps it was because we wanted him to be that we felt he was invincible.
Always humble and with a clear respect for his Sampson roots, Parsons was a man for all season, someone who was envied and respected by his rivals, dearly loved by people across this county and far beyond and cherished by his family.
In truth, Parsons felt like family, even to those who weren’t blood-kin to him. He had a way about him that made you feel welcomed, like a warm hug, and his genteel nature made him feel approachable, even when he was sitting high atop the Superior Court bench where he most recently resided, his black robe disconcerting but his smile always reassuring.
Parsons wore his role as resident Superior Court Judge like he did every aspect of his life — comfortably, appreciatively and sincerely. It was a position he had always dreamed of having and one he rarely failed to mention he was blessed to have secured. It was a role he took very seriously, meting out justice fairly but with heart, always understanding that behind even the most hardened of criminals was a human being and often at least one person who loved them.
In an interview just after he was appointed judge, Parsons told The Independent, “It’s exciting, without question, to undertake the final part of your career being able to live out your dream. It’s very humbling, it really is. … I consider this a great privilege to serve. It is my intention to be courteous to everyone, incredibly prepared, incredibly fair and to always do the right thing.”
From our vantage point, he hit each mark time and again.
He loved being a jurist. His life was a testament to that, having served as an assistant district attorney, a private practice attorney and finally as a judge. And he performed his duties in each role well.
Parsons loved life, and he cherished every relationship he made, and there were many along the way. Although he most often worked behind the scenes, declining credit for reaching a hand up to help someone else, Parsons’ influence was felt deep and wide in Sampson County, and he can be credited for making a difference in the lives of many here and beyond.
Many a person could share how Parsons touched their lives. Whether it was a young man he helped start a lawn care business that blossomed into a career or the teenager whose youthful mistake didn’t leave an indelible blemish on their record because of his brilliant and compassionate legal work, the stories can be traced back to a caring man who wanted to give back some of that which he had been blessed to receive.
Dozens upon dozens of Sampsonians can likely pull out handwritten notes from Parsons congratulating them on a success or mourning with them over a loss. And others can recall the personal phone calls made by the judge with the big heart, a man who was quick to celebrate others and, when he could, help them achieve their dreams.
That was the public Parsons most of us knew and loved. He was one of our own and we were proud that he called us his friends.
But there was also the private Parsons, the man loved and cherished by his family and adored by his closest friends, the man who returned those emotions three-fold. For them, most especially, this loss is enormous, a void that won’t easily be filled.
If Parsons was larger than life to us, imagine the place he holds in their hearts.
Our deepest sympathy is extended to them today, for even though we cannot presume to know how they feel, we understand that the depth of the hurt must reverberate to their very souls.
But we hope, in time, that they can make their way through the pain and see the indelible mark that Parsons made on this community and the people within it, and we hope that helps them to realize that though he is not with us in body any longer, Doug Parsons will never truly die — his legacy graces every inch of Sampson and the mark he left will forever be in our hearts and our minds.