Fort Smith Museum of History Celebrates Judge Isaac Parker’s 176th Birthday

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- October 15 will mark the 176th birthday of former Judge Isaac C. Parker, and the Fort Smith Museum of History held a special birthday celebration to honor him Saturday (Oct. 11).

"Judge Parker is known today as the hanging judge,” Leisa Gramlich, director of the Fort Smith Museum of History, said.

"Judge Parker. We read about him in our history books of course,” party guest Lee Smith said.

Judge Parker sentenced 160 people while serving as a United States District judge in Fort Smith -- 79 of them were hanged.

"I learned that he was a fast-working judge and thought of the constitution, which guarantees you a fair and speedy trial -- as opposed to what we have now-a-days,” Smith said. “And he was quick to get rid of people that didn't need to be living.”

"He did his job. Actually Judge Parker did not believe in capital punishment. But he carried out the law to the best of his ability,” Gramlich said.

"He made the decisions, and I think he was a fair judge. He'd catch 'em and he got rid of ‘em,” Smith said.

Floyd Robison, who has been portraying Parker for about six years, said outlaws would hide out on the other side of the Arkansas-Oklahoma border -- what used to be Indian Territory.

"That's where a lot of the criminals went to, to escape justice,” Robison said.

"It's the old west. The Wild West -- and yes it was. It was a wild place,” Gramlich said. “Judge Parker did his best to clean up Fort Smith. I think he did a good job.”

Smith said Parker's abilities went beyond the courtroom.

“He's a good looking old dude -- his goatee and all. When he had a goatee, he looked really good. I thought he was a sharp looking man,” Smith said. “And he was a smart man.”

The museum will host a murder and mayhem event the next two weekends, where people can go on a haunted trolley tour around Fort Smith led by Judge and Mrs. Isaac Parker.