Hidden History: Celebrating Maxie Parks’ impact on his Fresno hometown

Hidden History

FRESNO, California (KGPE) – The Central Valley’s Maxie Parks is an Olympic gold medalist on a mission to change lives.

He had success on the track as an Olympic sprinter, but it’s his impact in students’ lives that may be what most remember him for.

From an early age, it was clear that Maxie Parks never met a race he didn’t think he could win.

“I could outrun all of my neighbors, brothers, and sisters so I figured I was pretty quick,” said Parks.

He moved to California from Arkansas in the 5th grade and recalls his early days in the neighborhood.

“We didn’t have the technology and the things that the young people today have. So we had to be innovative.”

Innovation on the neighborhood sidewalks led to skill on the track for Parks at Washington Union High School. It was with the Panthers that Parks would get his first taste of success, landing several trips to the state championships.

“I wanted to go to the Olympics, I wanted to do something that would be recognized so that my name could go down in history,” said Parks.

Parks went on to attend Fresno City College and then earned a full-ride scholarship to UCLA. In 1976 he got his shot to run as part of the 4 by 400 relay team in Montreal.

Parks took full advantage of it, finishing first and winning a gold medal. Through all of his success, Parks never forgot where it all started.

“He is just a special man because he is so humble and so gracious with his time,” said Washington Union High School’s athletic director Jeff Freitas.

“He loves kids, he loves helping. He is the kind of guy we love has come back to Washington Union.”

Five years ago, the school honored Parks naming a track meet after him. He was later named to the inaugural class of the school’s wall of fame.

In 2017, Parks received a visit from Fresno City Councilmember Oliver Baines. That’s when he learned the city was naming a community center after him.

“I am so honored that the City of Fresno and the Parks Department saw fit to honor me in that manner,” said Parks.

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