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Immigrants Of The Day: "Colonel" Tom Parker (Netherlands), Alex Trebek (Canada), and Andrew Carnegie (Scotland)

by Kevin R. Johnson

"Colonel" Tom Parker (Netherlands)

Bookcoversm "Colonel" Tom Parker (born Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk on June 26,220pxelvis_presley_1970  1909–January 21, 1997), was best known as the manager of Elvis Presley.  Parker was born in Breda, Netherlands.

Parker's involvement in the music industry began as a music promoter in the late 1940s, working with country music stars Minnie Pearl, Hank Snow, and Eddy Arnold, as well as film star Tom Mix. He received the honorary title of "Colonel" in 1948 from Governor Jimmie Davis of Louisiana in return for work he did on Davis' election campaign.

In August 1955, Parker became the manager of Elvis Presley.  In November, he convinced RCA Records to buy Presley out from Sun Records for $35,000, a sizable sum in those days.  With his first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel," Presley became a star.

After Presley's death in 1977, Parker became embroiled in legal disputes with the singer's estate and with his ex-wife, Priscilla Presley. The continuing interest in Presley's enduring legend provoked Parker to remark in 1993, "I don't think I exploited Elvis as much as he's being exploited today."

As Presley's fame grew, people became interested in Parker as well.  For a time, he claimed to have been born in West Virginia, and to have run away at an early age to join the circus. The truth about his early years was revealed when his family in the Netherlands recognized him in photographs of Parker standing next to Elvis.  In a lawsuit in 1982, Parker admitted that he was a Dutch citizen.

The truth is that Parker left the Netherlands at about the age of 18, joined the United States Army, changed his name to Tom Parker, and later became part of the circus world.  In the 1940s, he also worked as a dogcatcher and a pet cemetery proprietor in Tampa, Florida in the 1940s.

Some have speculated that the reason that Presley never performed abroad was that Parker was worried that, as a noncitizen, he would not have been able to acquire a U.S. passport and risked deportation if he filed a naturalization petition. 

Parker died on January 21, 1997 of a stroke, in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the age of 87.

July 16, 2007 | Permalink

Alex Trebek (Canada)

Trebek George Alexander Trebek (born as Giorgi Suka-Alex Trebek on July 22, 1940) is an Emmy Award-winning television personality and game show host who's best known as the host of the game show Jeopardy! since September 10, 1984.

Trebek has hosted numerous game shows. A native of Canada, he became a naturalized United States citizen in 1998.

Alex Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, to George Edward Trebek, a Ukrainian immigrant father and Lucille Lagacé, a Franco-Ontarian mother.  He was educated by the Jesuits before graduating from Toronto's Malvern Collegiate Institute in 1958, and later the University of Ottawa with a degree in philosophy.  Interested in a career in broadcast news, he began his broadcasting career working for the CBC as a newscaster.

In 1973, Trebek moved to the United States and worked for NBC as host of a new game show, The Wizard of Odds. He appeared on television and hosted game shows before he was chosen to host the revived version of the game show Jeopardy! in 1984.   Art Fleming, the man whom Trebek was replacing, had retired from television.  He has been its host ever since.

In 1991, Trebek became the only host in United States TV history to helm three daily national game shows at once — Jeopardy!, Classic Concentration and To Tell the Truth.

Trebek became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1998.   In an interview with a talk show host, Trebek complained that "I had only been a citizen for two weeks when I received a summons to appear for jury duty!"  He now lives in Studio City, California. Trebek owns and manages Creston Farms, a 700 acre ranch near Paso Robles, California which breeds thoroughbred race horses.

July 17, 2007 | Permalink

Andrew Carnegie (Scotland)

CarnegieOne of the captains of industry of 19th century America, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) helped build the American steel industry, a process that turned a poor young man into one of the richest entrepreneurs of his age. Later in his life, Carnegie sold his steel business and systematically gave his collected fortune away to cultural, educational and scientific institutions for "the improvement of mankind."

Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, the medieval capital of Scotland, in 1835. The town was a center of the linen industry, and Andrew's father was a weaver, a profession the young Carnegie was expected to follow. But the industrial revolution that would later make Carnegie the richest man in the world, destroyed the weavers' craft. When the steam-powered looms came to Dunfermline in 1847 hundreds of hand loom weavers became expendable. Andrew's mother went to work to support the family, opening a small grocery shop and mending shoes.

Besides becoming a steel magnate, Carnegie was one of the first to call for a "league of nations" and he built a "a palace of peace" that would later evolve into the World Court. His hopes for a civilized world of peace were shattered by the onset of World War I in 1914. Carnbeie lived for another five years, but the last entry in his autobiography was the day World War I began.

For more on Carnegie, click here.

July 18, 2007 | Permalink

These posts were orginally posted on the ImmigrationProf Blog here, here and here.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog .

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.