The naming of Parker and Craig high schools took over the front page of the Janesville Daily Gazette one day in 1965, edging out news of 2,400 more troops being sent to Vietnam and the Soviet Union’s Lunik spacecraft approaching the moon.
Under a two-deck banner headline, the lead story May 12, 1965, trumpeted that the Janesville School Board “unanimously approved naming the new high school, to be built in 1967, and the present school, after George S. Parker, the founder of Parker Pen Co., and Joseph A. Craig, who was solely responsible for bringing General Motors to Janesville.”
Board member Julius Feldman suggested that the new high school be named after Craig because of his connection to agriculture.
But board member William Ryan thought it would be better to leave it to chance, “in order that no charge of favoring one name over the other could be leveled at the board.”
Ryan tossed a silver dollar, and the west-side school was named after Parker.
Craig was born in 1867 and spent his early career working in the farm implements industry. In 1918, he was called to Detroit and asked to head up an ailing GM subsidiary in California: Samson Tractor.
Craig persuaded GM to relocate the factory to Janesville, and that made the transition to car manufacturing an easy choice when the time came.
By 1922, Craig had retired from the industry and dedicated himself to “youth activities and Guernsey and Holstein breeding” according to the story.
In the 1920s, he spent his time traveling around rural areas and helping establish 4-H clubs, according to a biography published by the UW Extension. He also helped start the Rock County 4-H Fair and was a significant supporter of the YMCA and YWCA.
Parker was born in 1863. He founded Parker Pen in 1888, and he and his company held patents on several fountain pens. By 1924, Parker Pen recorded sales of $5 million.
Along with his work as the head of the company, Parker was also deeply involved in the community, serving on the American Red Cross Board for more than 20 years.
In 1927, he donated $10,000 for the construction of the Janesville Woman’s Club—the equivalent of about $134,400 today.