Since she was a little girl in Opelika, Nancy Parker Boyd believed she could accomplish anything she could dream and visualize. While Nancy knew in grammar school she wanted to be a television news anchor, she never thought her dream would take her to the White House to interview the president of the United States or to St. Peter’s Square to meet the Pope.
Her dedication to excellence would bring her two Emmys for documentaries and along the way, the fulfillment of another dream to write children’s books.
The daughter of Bill and Patsy Parker of Opelika, Nancy recalls both educators encouraging her to follow her dreams. Growing up, Nancy wasn’t allowed to sit around watching television, as she was required to read. “My room could be a mess,” she remembers, “but if I was reading, my parents didn’t say anything.”
When she finished reading a Nancy Drew book, her grandmother would take her to Jackie’s Cards and Gifts in downtown Opelika for another one. “I remember when Granny would buy that book and how it smelled. I could have read that book all night.”
Nancy feels her parents were great role models. “Their motto was be the best at whatever you do, no matter what that is, always keep your dignity and self-respect and be able to hold your head up no matter where you are. This was drilled into me and my brother, Billy, every day.”
Nancy was active in organizations at Opelika High School, and she was the first Black Miss OHS.
“My mom was always striving for the stars,” says Nancy. “She had vision further than my vision.” Her mother entered Nancy in a Teen magazine modeling contest. Nancy was selected to go to Beverly Hills for a photo shoot. She was one of six finalists in the magazine’s Miss Teenage America Contest.
As a senior in high school, she stepped toward a dream by applying for a news department job at WJHO Radio Station. Nancy was thankful Jack Smollon believed in her.
Nancy attended city council meetings and presented the afternoon news on radio.
After high school, she studied journalism at the University of Alabama where she graduated with honors in 1988. While at Alabama she volunteered at WUAL Radio Station and wrote articles for The Crimson White newspaper. She interned for the Birmingham News.
She received job offers from newspapers, but in her heart she wanted to be a news anchor. Nancy interned at WTVM in Columbus where she appeared on the air for several stories.
With no openings at the station, Nancy accepted a position working for Congressman Bill Nichols in Washington, D.C., writing press releases and letters. A year later, she received a call from the Columbus station about an opening at the East Alabama Bureau.
Her career moved quickly as Nancy accepted a news position at WSFA in Montgomery, reporting the weekend news and then later anchoring the morning news. Nancy met her future husband, reporter Glynn Boyd, on a story.
They ended up in Baton Rouge, where Nancy anchored the five o’clock news. “I have had a charmed life, being blessed and in the right place at the right time,” says Nancy. A few years later, in 1996 both Nancy and her husband were in New Orleans. In a couple of years Nancy would be the main anchor for the prime-time news on the Fox station.
When Katrina headed for New Orleans, the couple felt the storm would be awful. Nancy was covering a shelter outside the city. Glynn’s cousins came to get the children. He wanted them to stay at the Hyatt with their three children, Parker and twins Piper and Pierce.
Nancy felt it was a bad idea and gave his cousin her van to go to a relative’s home in Baton Rouge. Glynn decided to follow, leaving a couple of hours before the storm hit, driving across the 20-mile bridge that would be nearly destroyed by the next day.
When the storm hit, every window in the Hyatt was blown out.
After the levees broke, the city was under water, including the television station, which could not operate without electricity or phones.
All Nancy could think about was getting her children. She drove with a co-worker to Baton Rouge, although she didn’t know which apartment at the complex was the cousin’s home. It was an answer to prayer that Glynn’s family walked out the door with the children on their way to dinner.
Nancy spent the next three months broadcasting in Mobile. Glynn took Parker back to New Orleans to attend school. Their home only had roof damage.
Nancy traveled back and forth to New Orleans to report on heartbreaking stories. “It was so devastating in one moment. Some neighborhoods looked like a bomb went off. There was nobody. It smelled wet, decayed like death. Everything was brown.”
The White House invited five journalists from the Gulf coast for one-on-one interviews with President George W. Bush. While Nancy was waiting to interview the president in the Roosevelt room, she called her mother from the China room. “Guess where I am.”
Other notables she has covered include Pope John Paul II when the founder of Xavier University in New Orleans was canonized. “Just as the Pope announced her name,” remembers Nancy, “a brilliant rainbow appeared over St. Peter’s Square. I never know what I will be covering next. It is always an adventure.”
She also covered Pope John Paul II’s 1999 visit to the U.S.
Nancy has received many honors, including four Emmy nominations, receiving two for her documentaries.
Her first Emmy detailed a family who were descendants of slaves, who eventually purchased the plantation house and land where his family members had toiled.
In “The Journey Home” Nancy reported, “he could see the faces of his ancestors pressed against the windows.”
Another winning documentary
was on Archbishop Philip Hannan,
who was a confidant to President John F. Kennedy.
Nancy is drawn to stories that make a difference. The most recent Emmy nomination was for a story on an honor student who was homeless. Nancy saw a sign that said, “Homeless kids have to go to school too.”
“I started wondering if there were homeless kids going to school. I couldn’t sleep thinking about it.” One night between newscasts, she found the girl at the Salvation Army shelter with her mom. The girl was at the top of her class and drum major in the school band, but ashamed.
After Nancy presented her story, the girl’s life changed. Her family received an apartment and donations. The girl now wants to mentor other children left behind at the shelter.
“I am always looking to make a difference,” says Nancy. She received an Edward R. Murrow Award for a documentary on her co-worker’s wife who died of a blood clot after she broke her ankle. Nancy delved deeper into the causes of blood clots, and the information saved some lives. She and the co-worker received many calls of thanks.
“If I can see a change in something,” says Nancy, “that keeps me motivated.”
Another Edward R. Murrow Award was recently given for Nancy’s work on a girl born without arms.
She is always searching for something new and exciting. She completed another dream when she wrote a children’s book, “The Adventures of Yat and Dat: What’s Cookin’?” The book is about two birds visiting famous restaurants to grab scraps of food to create their own masterpieces. She is working on another children’s book.
As a news anchor, Nancy visited schools to promote literacy before she published her own book, which she now reads to young students.
“I remember decades ago,” says Nancy, “when I really wanted something, I could visualize and pray for it. When I can see it, I can do it. Everything I wanted has come to pass. I could close my eyes and pictured myself signing these books before I wrote it. You have to really believe it.”
This past year, Nancy moved to an earlier news time slot to be home at night with her children, but she continues to be motivated to make a difference.
“My parents are part of what keeps me going,” she says. “They are retired, and they never stop. They have always tried to make a difference in somebody’s life.
“You always want to be a light and not just a person,” adds Nancy. “You have to do something to help other people and give back.” EAL