John Parker was born on September 9, 1866, in Sedalia, Missouri. He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on June 16, 1888, and was commissioned a 2d Lt of Infantry on June 11, 1892. Lt Parker served with the 13th Infantry Regiment from June 1892 to 1900, and during this time he formed and Commanded the Gatling Gun Detachment during the Spanish-American War. His next assignment was with the 28th Infantry Regiment from 1900 to January 1908, followed by service organizing the 1st Provisional Machine Gun Company in 1908. He served in the Mexican Punitive Expedition and as an Instructor in the Machine Gun School before serving with the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division in France in World War I. Gen Parker retired from the Army in 1924, and died on October 13, 1942. He was buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery in San Francisco, California.
His 4th Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Third Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Fourth Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Colonel (Infantry) John Henry Parker, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 102d Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F., near Gesnes, France, 29 September 1918. During the attack on the village of Gesnes Colonel Parker displayed great gallantry and fearlessness in leading and directing his front line with utter disregard for personal safety and urged his men forward by his personal example, all under heavy machine-gun, high-explosive, gas-shell, and shrapnel fire. He was abreast of his front line until he fell, twice wounded, but thereafter remained in active command for a period of five hours, when he was relieved by the lieutenant colonel of his regiment.