Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Parsons graduated from the University of Hawaii, where he played varsity basketball. He earned a law degree from Albany Law School and outscored all other test takers of the 1971 New York State bar exam. Parsons served as a lawyer for New York governor Nelson Rockefeller and followed Rockefeller to Washington when he became vice president in 1974. In 1977 Parsons returned to New York and joined Wall Street law firm Patterson, Belknap. He left the firm to become president of Dime Savings Bank. He became the bank's CEO, seeing it through a merger with Anchor Savings Bank. In 1995 he became president of Time Warner, helping negotiate its merger with America Online, which created a $165-billion media empire in 2000. In December 2001 AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin announced plans to retire in May 2002 and declared that Parsons would succeed him. The move surprised many media watchers who assumed that AOL Time Warner chief operating officer Robert Pittman would take the helm. Also in 2001, President Bush selected Parson to cochair a commission on Social Security. In addition, Parsons worked on the transition team for Michael Bloomberg, who was elected mayor of New York City in 2001.