Former Tybee Island mayor Walter Parker dies after brief illness

Former Tybee mayor Walter Parker waves to the crowd attending the historic marker dedication. (Photo Courtesy of Ben Goggins/Savannah Morning News)

Credit: Ben Goggins / For Savannah Morning News

Combined ShapeCaption
Former Tybee mayor Walter Parker waves to the crowd attending the historic marker dedication. (Photo Courtesy of Ben Goggins/Savannah Morning News)

Credit: Ben Goggins / For Savannah Morning News

Former Tybee Island Mayor Walter Parker is being remembered by friends and colleagues as an amazing human being who served the beachfront community for many years with class, dignity and strong leadership.

Parker died Sept. 17 following a brief illness. After many years on Tybee, he and his wife, Mary Ann, moved to Bloomingdale in 2005 to be closer to their daughter and her family.

Current Tybee Mayor Shirley Sessions said she kept in contact with her friend, Walter. “We shared Tybee memories and lots of laughs. I will miss him terribly.

“He was loved and respected by his community and all who met him, whether through personal or professional contact,” Sessions said on social media. “The ultimate Southern gentleman, his dignified presence and sense of humor made him truly an original.”

Parker was a longtime Tybee resident who served three terms as mayor for a total of 16 years. His 2005 successor ― Jason Buelterman ― said he will miss Parker, not as a political opponent, but “as a friend” whose trademark crewcut was known around the state.

"Tybee was lucky to have him lead the community for all those years," he added. "There are so many aspects of Tybee's growth and improvement that he had a hand in — whether it was the construction of the pier (which we named after him several years ago) or keeping the lighthouse in the hands of the Tybee Historical Society or beach renourishment projects or any number of other things that he accomplished.

“But I think his most important legacy is how he handled himself with so much class, dignity and kindness as mayor. He was an amazing human being with an even more amazing wife. I’ll never forget when we had a debate at city hall between the two of us, and I looked out in the audience and his wife Mary Ann was holding our little baby Maria who was just a few weeks old at the time. That’s how politics should be.”

Tybee Island pier and pavilion named in Parker’s honor

When Parker began his first term as mayor in the mid-1980s, he and several council members lobbied to have a new pier and pavilion built to replace the one that burned in the mid-1960s. As the result of his efforts, a new pavilion was built. In 2007, the Chatham County Commission voted to name it the Walter Parker Pavilion and Pier.

Buelterman remembers approaching the commission with the idea of naming the pier and pavilion in Parker’s honor, and was told that the panel “didn’t typically name things for people until after they pass away for fear of something happening, that will discredit that person before they meet their maker.

“But for Walter, they made an exception,” he said. “They all knew him and his character, and as a consequence, decided to go ahead and name it for him. I was so happy that he was able to be honored in this way while he was still with us. But the only reason we were able to do this was because he had such an impeccable reputation in our community.”

The historical plaque on the pavilion says this about Parker:

“Walter Parker dedicated his life to public service. Following a distinguished military career, he returned to Tybee Island and served two years on the City Council and 16 years as Mayor. He championed beautification and beach renourishment projects, lobbied successfully for federal, state and local funding for beach projects, and helped to convince Chatham County to build Tybrisa II (Pier and Pavilion). For these accomplishments, he will be forever remembered. Dedicated this 12th day of May, 2007.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Walter Parker, Tybee Island mayor for 16 years, dies after brief illness


Today’s story comes from our partner, Savannah Morning News. Savannah Morning News provides daily news coverage on Coastal Georgia. Visit them at or on Twitter @SavannahNow.

If you have any feedback or questions about our partnerships, you can contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams via email at