“I couldn’t know then what I know now: those dark, confusing years… when I flailed through school and life, were preparing me for what lay ahead. I learned to be ever alert. I learned that violence can turn up anywhere, anytime.”
Jerry Studstill Parr was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1930, at the start of The Great Depression. His parents later moved to Miami, where young Jerry spent more time with his unemployed father than with his mother.
Jerry Parr went with his father everywhere — from dark, smoke-filled bars where his dad gave him sips of beer (“Don’t tell Mama”), to Biscayne Bay where they caught blowfish with cane poles, and Opa-Locka where they hunted quail and dove. Times were hard, and they ate whatever they killed.
Sometimes, when money was available, they went to the movies. One day, Parr’s dad took him to The Tower Theater on Northwest 4th Street to see a new feature film, Code of the Secret Service, starring Ronald Reagan as dashing Agent Brass Bancroft. Parr gripped his father’s arm as Brass survived one cliff-hanging moment after another, one narrow escape after another, before finally beating the bad guys and winning the girl. As he left the theater that night, young Jerry thought, I want to be a life saver, too!
The film was just one of many early experiences — some happy, some heartbreaking — that would influence Jerry Parr and shape his destiny. Throughout it all — his loving, alcoholic father, his parents’ divorce, a violent stepfather, bullying and several near-death experiences as a lineman for Florida Power and Light — he always felt the gracious light of his parents’ love and the protective sanctuary of God’s arms.
Forty-two years after seeing Code of the Secret Service, Jerry Parr was the Secret Service agent credited with saving President Reagan’s life in the 1981 assassination attempt.
Read Parr’s autobiography IN THE SECRET SERVICE for more about the inauspicious beginnings of one of the most famous Secret Service agents of all time.
©2018 Jerry and Carolyn Parr. All Rights Reserved.