James Parks: Notable Grave Digger for Arlington National Cemetery

1 Posted by - June 11, 2022 - Black First, LATEST POSTS

James Parks is notable for doing a job that most people had no desire to do–digging graves. It was a respected job and one that Parks didn’t have to worry about too many people wanting.

Parks dug the first graves in Arlington National Cemetery. He had been a former Arlington Estate slave and was freed in 1862 under the terms of a will left by his former owner, George Washington Parke Custis.

Parks was still living on the Arlington Estate when the orders were signed designating Arlington as a military burial ground. He served in the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1929 by working as a grave digger and maintenance man for the cemetery.

Parks died in 1929, and special permission was granted by Secretary of War Henry Stimson for him to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Parks is the only person buried in Arlington National Cemetery who was also born on the property (1843).




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