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Raymond Parks named to NASCAR Hall of Fame
A-Raymond Parks mug
Parks - photo by File photo

Dawsonville can now boast another NASCAR Hall of Famer.

On May 25 NASCAR announced that Dawsonville native Raymond Parks would be a part of the 2017 class of Hall of Fame inductees. Parks will join fellow Dawsonville native Bill Elliott.

After the voting panel met at the Charlotte Convention Center to vote on the 20 eligible nominees, the announcement came that Parks garnered one of the top five positions and will be officially inducted next year.

Parks is known as the first successful NASCAR team owner.

"He won the very first trophy NASCAR gave away. Raymond Parks got the first win as an owner," said Georgia Racing Hall of Fame President Gordon Pirkle. "The first one was in modified. Red [Byron] and Raymond won the championship in it. The following year, in ‘49...they won it in a ‘49 Oldsmobile."

Parks was born in Dawsonville in 1914 and ran away from home at the age of 14.

According to Pirkle, Parks told him the story of his younger years many times.

"When he was 14 years old he ran away from home and went to work for two old men making liquor. He must have done a good job because they later gave him two boxes that he could have the profit off of, so he saved up his money and by the time he turned 16, he bought two new T-model cars and started hauling moonshine from Dawsonville to Atlanta," Pirkle said.

The lucrative opportunities running moonshine paved the way to Parks' eventual business holdings and future as a team owner.

"He told me that he'd get 90 cents a gallon here in Dawsonville and $1.30 in Atlanta. The T-model was open, like a buggy. How could you hide much more than 20 gallons? So he's probably making $6 a load, but back then you'd work all day for .50," Pirkle said.

The business-minded Parks saved his money and was able to purchase his uncle's garage in Atlanta by the time he was 18 years old.

The story goes that he was a millionaire by 21, according to Pirkle.

"He never forgot his roots. He would keep coming back and all of his family is buried up here," he said.

The World War II vet was a part of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium where he was awarded a Good Conduct Medal and a Distinguished Unit Badge.

He also did some racing of his own before and after the war.

Parks was a part of the now famous meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach in 1947 where drivers, owners, promoters and mechanics gathered to talk about the future of the sport. The result was the start of NASCAR as it is known today.

"There ain't no doubt that the birthplace of NASCAR ought to be the Streamline Hotel, but I like to tell people that it was conceived in Raymond Park's office here," Pirkle said of Park's ties to Dawsonville.

The first two official NASCAR championships were won by one of Park's drivers, Red Byron in 1948 and 1949.

Even though his team competed for just four seasons, they produced two premier series wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top-10s in 18 events, according to NASCAR.

Parks was a part of the inaugural class of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2009, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

The other four inductees for the 2017 class include Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin and Benny Parsons.