A North Dallas man killed in a house fire was remembered Wednesday by family and friends as a trailblazer.
Raleigh Parks, 78, died after fire swept through his home on the 12000 block of Quincy Lane. Neighbors said they heard his burglar alarm going off at about 2 a.m. Wednesday and when they looked outside they saw heavy fire coming from the home.
When firefighters arrived, they broke through the front door and found Parks just a few feet away from the exit. It appeared he was trying to escape, but was overcome by the flames or smoke.
Rescue crews performed CPR en route to Medical City Dallas, but Parks was pronounced dead upon arrival. His family said he had throat cancer and recently had a tracheotomy, which made it impossible for him to survive the smoke.
Investigators said they believe a space heater sparked the flames that started the house fire.
Parks, an Atlanta native and Harvard business school graduate, was one of the first African American executives with Coca-Cola, serving as a vice president with the company. Growing up he was a childhood friend and neighbor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, said his friend Dr. Jack Schwade.
Parks home was the first one built on Quincy Lane in 1965, integrating a neighborhood that was once a plantation. His friends said crosses were burned in his yard then, but he never considered leaving.
"He was a trailblazer and we want to remember that," his friend Joe Nash said. "Young folks don't know what he had to go through, but he did it and he never stepped back. He was a very strong steady man."
Lindsay Wilcox contributed to this report