Fess Parker’s portrayal of the frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone during the 1950’s and 1960’s garnered him a legion of adoring fans spanning many generations. It might well be said that Fess’s similarity to those straight talking, hardworking country gentlemen is what endeared him to millions and helped him achieve success in the business world when he made the decision to walk away from Hollywood in the early 1970’s.
Originally from Texas, Parker enrolled at the University of Texas following his tour of duty in the U.S. Navy during WWII. He graduated from UT with a degree in history in 1950. After moving to California he worked on his Masters degree in drama at the University of Southern California. Parker began acting professionally in 1951 as a stage performer in the national company of Mister Roberts. In 1954 the stars aligned and Walt Disney cast Parker in the title role of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.
In 1964 Parker began filming the network television series, Daniel Boone. During the shows six year run as one of the highest rated shows on television Parker starred, co-produced and directed five of its most popular episodes. Parker also continued to star in numerous box office hits for Disney, Paramount and Warner Brothers’ Studios while simultaneously laying the foundation for his second career in real estate development.
Blending his gracious Texas manner and a tremendous eye for real estate Parker opened his first resort hotel in Santa Barbara in 1986. Set on 23.5 ocean front acres, The Fess Parker, a Doubletree by Hilton, is situated on Cabrillo Boulevard in the heart of Santa Barbara’s waterfront.
Parker’s next business adventure took him inland to the Santa Ynez Valley to follow the lure of the county’s promise as a world-class wine region. Parker purchased a 714 acre ranch on what is now known as the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail and set out to make wine of the highest quality made from estate grown grapes and the best vineyards in the county. The Fess Parker Winery is still family owned and operated and will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2014. The winery has received critical success and numerous awards including Eli Parker and his successor winemaker, Blair Fox, being named the Andre Tchelistcheff Wine Maker of the Year in 2006 and 2008 respectively.
In 1998 Parker purchased what was then known as The Grand Hotel, just down the road from the winery in Los Olivos. The charming 19-room inn, now called the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa was completely renovated in 2012 and is a Preferred Boutique property.
Fess Parker and his wife, Marcella, were married for 50 years and lived in Santa Barbara for over 30 years. They raised two children and have 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Fess passed away in March of 2010. We miss his wisdom, his smile and his wonderful friendship.