By Kathy Otten
When most historical western fans see the name Isaac Parker they immediately know him as Judge Parker, the Hanging Judge of Fort Smith, Arkansas. While on the bench Judge Parker was stern, inflexible and impartial. Off the bench he was a different man.
Born in Belmont County, Ohio on October 15, 1838, Isaac (Ike) Parker was educated in local schools and at 17, he decided to study law. He passed his bar exam in 1859 and moved to St. Joseph, MO to practice law. During this time he met a young Catholic girl, Mary O'Toole. They married on December 12, 1861.
In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him as the federal judge for the Western District of Arkansas, with full jurisdiction over 74,000 miles of Indian Territory.
Though few people knew, Parker suffered from diabetes and in 1896 Parker passed away from Bright's disease. On his deathbed he said, "I never hanged a man. It was the law."