Chief Parish was born in Marianna, Florida, and attended Malone High School. He joined the US Air Force in December 1954. Following basic military training, he was assigned to Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, for training as a ground weather equipment operator where earned distinction as an honor graduate. His early assignments include Germany, Massachusetts, and Illinois. In March 1973, Chief Parish graduated from the first class of the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Gunter Air Force Station, Alabama. One of his classmates was James M. McCoy, who in August 1979 would be appointed as one of Chief Parish's predecessors, the sixth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. In August 1976, he began his third tour of duty in West Germany as Sergeant Major for the 36th Combat Support Group consolidated base personnel office at Bitburg Air Base, Germany. His career includes tours as Senior Enlisted Advisor for 40th Air Division, US Air Forces in Europe, and Strategic Air Command.
CMSAF Parish served as the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force from August 1983 to June 1986.