Jane Phillips: The USS George F. Parrott
Two days before Christmas in 1887, a baby boy named George was born, the third of seven children to George and Julia Bizzell Parrott. The family lived in the rural Falling Creek township where George grew into a bright fun-loving boy.
His parents sent him to school at Oak Ridge Military Academy where young George showed great promise for a military career. After graduation, he received an appointment to the US Naval Academy at Annapolis.
In his senior year, the Annapolis yearbook of 1911 gave a glimpse into the character and personality of George: “He was good-naturedly called Polly by his fellow cadets. He never spoke an unkind word of another. He was unassuming, and it must be said, far from addicted to work. He has the Southerner's love of ease, but actually mustered up sufficient energy to be a football representative to the Third Company.
“He is always in a good humor. About every three weeks, he becomes very voluble and musical. Though not remarkably religious, Polly was elected President of the YMCA his second year. However, his high ideals of honor would not permit him to accept the office after learning that the ballots had been stuffed and he resigned in favor of one more religiously inclined. He has long dreamed of a medical career, but will make a better naval officer than doctor."
After graduation, Parrott served honorably aboard a number of ships. His service carried him through most of the First World War with a distinguished record of service.
Lt. Commander Parrott was Executive Officer of the destroyer USS Shaw. One month before the end of WWI on Oct. 9, 1918, while escorting the SS Aquitania in the English Channel, the Shaw's rudder jammed just as she was completing the right leg of a zigzag, leaving her headed directly towards the transport.
A moment later, the Steamship Aquitania struck the Shaw, cutting off 90 feet of the destroyer's bow, mangling her bridge and setting her on fire. Shaw's crew heroically brought her damage under control, and a skeleton crew of 21 men took the wreck 40 miles into port under her own power.
However, its commanding officer — George Fountain Parrott — lost his life in his efforts to save the ship. He, along with 12 others, were lost at sea.
The loss of the USS Shaw and part of its crew made big news back in the United States — the headlines were in newspapers across the country. The people of Kinston were stunned upon hearing of Parrott’s death and the family grieved, as did the Kinston community. At his memorial service at Queen Street Methodist Church, he was remembered fondly as an honorable and heroic man.
Parrott was awarded posthumously the Navy Cross; his citation reads: "The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross posthumously to Lieutenant Commander George Fountain Parrott, United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in the line of his profession on the USS Shaw, when that vessel was rammed by the steamship AQUITANIA on 9 October 1918. Lieutenant Parrot lost his life on that occasion."
More honors came in his memory when a plaque was place in a building at Annapolis acknowledging Parrott’s service to his country.
Within two years, the Parrott family and friends traveled to Philadelphia Navy Yard where they met with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels; he was an old friend who had established the Kinston Free Press many years earlier. They came together to launch the new top of the line destroyer, the USS George F. Parrott.
George Fountain Parrott, who once walked the streets of Kinston, made his hometown and America proud with his heroic actions. He will always be a part of the United States Naval History.