Photographer, writer, filmmaker, composer, musician
Gordon Parks Elementary was named in honor of the groundbreaking African-American photographer, writer, filmmaker, composer, and musician. Mr. Parks was the first African American to work at Life magazine, and the first to write, direct, and score a Hollywood film.
Mr. Parks’ musical and visual talents chronicled the African American experience and retold his own personal history. This self-taught man with Midwestern roots reflected the spirit and vision of Gordon Parks Elementary School.
During the fall of 1998 Sue Jarvis and Dorothy Curry were formulating final plans before opening a charter elementary school. But only thing was missing: a name. That day, listed among those notables in the Kansas City Star’s "Birthday" column, was Mr. Gordon Parks, photographer, filmmaker, writer and composer. He was celebrating his 86th birthday.
"That was it! Our school had to be named for this talented man who overcame poverty and adversity," Dorothy Curry recalled. "He was a living hero." Mr. Gordon Parks proudly endorsed the school’s mission of educating urban core children to reach their full potential. From 1999 to 2006, Mr. Parks the man and Gordon Parks Elementary enjoyed a close relationship. They met through poems, letters, and visits from Dorothy and Bill Curry and teachers attending workshops in New York.
"I feel deep love for this marvelous school that bears my name, and for you beautiful students who inhabit it each day. You are taking root in the right place and during the right time during the best days of your precious lives. So this is not goodbye. My spirit is arriving to be with you forever and forever."
—Mr. Gordon Parks
Mr. Parks’ hometown of Ft. Scott, KS, has established the Gordon Parks Center dedicated to telling his powerful story. The Gordon Parks Foundation was established in order to preserve and promote Mr. Parks’ creative work.