Travis Lee Parker Jr. departed this life on March 31, 2022. He was born in Stockton, CA on December 3, 1945, to Travis and Martha Parker (Daniel). Many people knew him as Sunny or Coach Parker. Travis was given the nickname “Sunny” when his older sister, Viola, noticed the sun favored him as he lay in his crib. Sunny's parents were former sharecroppers with 11 years of education between them. Yet, Sunny referred to them as the most intelligent people he has known. Travis and Martha taught Sunny the values of hard work, service, and loyalty which became cornerstones of his life. Sunny spent his early years in Stockton. His large extended family, including 24 aunts and uncles and 93 first cousins, served as his earliest and most impactful teachers. Two indispensable gifts Sunny received from his family were a deep faith in God and athleticism.
Travis and his family moved to Sacramento in 1961 where he joined the Sacramento High School track team. According to Travis, the first person he met at his new school was Bishop Scott. Their early bond proved to be serendipitous as Travis later married Bishop's sister, Velma Scott. After high school, Travis continued to run track for San Jose State College, Sacramento City College, the United States Army, after being drafted, and for Sacramento State College (CSUS) after his discharge from the army. In 1970, he married Velma, and they moved to Illinois, where he completed graduate school and got his first track and teaching position. Their eldest daughter Carolee was born soon after, and Velma realized she had a deep hatred of snow. Together, these two factors motivated the young family to move back to Sacramento after just two years.
Travis took a job at a tiny community college that had just opened in South Sacramento. He was hired at Cosumnes River College (CRC) as the head coach for cross country and assistant coach for track. Coach Parker started a soccer club at Cosumnes to keep his cross country and track athletes conditioned during the off-season. He had never played soccer and didn't know the rules, but the more he learned, the more he developed a passion for the sport. Coach Parker knew that his responsibility to his athletes extended beyond the field. He made sure all his athletes had a place to stay and plenty to eat, often housing them in his home and taking them to his mother's house for meals. Coach Parker soon realized he had too many athletes. He couldn't give each player the attention he felt they deserved, so he left the track and cross country programs to focus solely on soccer. Eventually, Travis and Velma would install a full-sized soccer field in their backyard, and he would become a pillar in the local and statewide soccer communities.
Travis shared his love of sports with his family. Velma and Carolee played and coached soccer. When reflecting on his success as a coach, Travis liked to say that while he was the most recognized, he was only the fourth-best coach in his family. He considered his cousin Raydell, his wife Velma, and his daughter Carolee to be more successful coaches. His daughter Jana never liked soccer, but she loved running and swimming. When she joined the swim team in high school, Travis frequently attended her meets and filmed her events so they could, later, review and analyze her performance, together.
Travis was a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He was active in Zeta Beta Lambda, the Sacramento chapter, where he served as the educational director for many years. In 2005, he and local chapter President John Taylor co-founded the Alpha Academy to address the achievement gap in Elk Grove and Sacramento. The mission of the Alpha Academy was to promote academic and social skills in Black youth. Through the academy, Travis encouraged young people and supported anxious parents. The academy even became an alternative to punitive discipline for area high schools that permitted parents to take their students to Alpha Academy sessions in lieu of traditional suspensions or Saturday school. Travis felt it a privilege to work with kids who just needed someone to believe in them and show them a path to success. As the director of educational programs for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Zeta Beta Lambda chapter, Travis chaired the college scholarship committee.
Travis took every opportunity to support the youth in his community. He served as a mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. He co-taught the high school Sunday School class at Shiloh Baptist Church in Sacramento. Students at CRC could always count on Travis to serve as a faculty advisor for student groups, even if the group’s focus was outside his areas of expertise. At CRC, he implemented the Scholar Baller program and created a Math tutoring program for student-athletes. He used his position to teach the importance of academic achievement and financial literacy so sports would be an opportunity but not a limitation. Eventually, Travis expanded the tutoring program to also serve middle and high school students.
In 2011, Travis created the Martha Parker Scholarship Fund in memory of his late mother. He held an annual gospel concert to raise money for the scholarship fund and used his many resources, most notably his drive and power of persuasion, to make the fundraiser a success. He was fond of telling people, "I don't want you to come; I just want you to buy a ticket. I have more tickets than available seats."
Travis lived a full life according to a scripture that he often cited, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required." (Luke 12:48). He was grateful for his many blessings and counted it a joy to bless others. Travis was preceded in death by his parents, Travis L. Parker, Sr. and Martha A. Parker, his sister Viola M. Mitchell, and his niece Yvonne Hogan (Mitchell). Travis leaves to cherish his memory his beloved wife Velma, his daughters Carolee Parker and Jana Banks (James), his granddaughter Zara Banks, his niece Lisa Mitchell-Cunningham (Alan), his nephew Austin Mitchell, Jr., his lifelong friends and “brothers” Paul Fuller (Macia), Rubeun "Rudy" Smith (Louise), Minor Washington (Elinor), a large extended family, and a host of friends, mentees, and former athletes.
Travis will be memorialized on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at Antioch Progressive Church in Sacramento, CA. The Omega Service of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc will be held at 10 am. Travis was laid to rest at the Sacramento Valley Veterans National Cemetery - 5810 Midway Rd, Dixon, CA 95620. The family asks that you thoughtfully consider honoring Travis’s legacy with a donation to one of the following scholarship funds:
Martha Parker Scholarship Fund (Make checks payable to ZBL Foundation and indicate “Martha Parker Scholarship Fund” in the memo)
Mail to: ZBL Foundation, PO Box 22261, Sacramento, CA 95822.
Shiloh Baptist Church Scholarship Fund (Make checks payable to Shiloh Baptist Church and indicate “scholarship fund” in the memo)
Mail to: Shiloh Baptist Church, 3565 9th Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95817
Link to Committal Service: