Mary Evelyn Parker, lifelong Christian and dedicated public servant, died peacefully at her home in Baton Rouge on Saturday, January 17th. She was 94. A pioneer in achievement, she was born in Fullerton, LA on November 8, 1920. She grew up in Oakdale, LA and in 1941 graduated from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA. She became a teacher, and later the editor of the Oakdale Journal. During World War II she served as Personnel Administrator for the United States War Department. Her political career began in 1948 when her high school debating coach asked her to give a speech for Earl Long. Upon his election as Governor in 1948, she was named head of the Department of Commerce and Industry, a position which she held for 4 years. During the administration of Governor Kennon, she became an insurance agent, selling more than one million dollars of insurance during her first year. In 1954 she became a Louisiana member of the Million Dollar Round Table of the National Association of Underwriters, becoming the first woman in the United States to earn that distinction. In 1956 she returned to state service to head the Department of Welfare, where she remained for 7 years. In 1963 Mrs. Parker played an integral role in the election of her longtime friend and political ally, Governor John McKeithen, and served as Commissioner of Administration during his first term in office. Mrs. Parker ran for State Treasurer and was elected in 1968. She was the first woman to be elected treasurer of Louisiana, winning all sixty-four parishes. In her later elections, she was a runaway winner over her opponents. After serving five highly successful terms as Treasurer, she retired in 1988. An editorial described her career with this statement- "Amidst the seamy quagmire of Louisiana politics, there shines a billion dollar jewel. That jewel is Mary Evelyn Parker." Mrs. Parker's awards and organizations include: Chairman, White House Committee on Children and Youth (1960); Secretary, American Public Welfare Association (1960-1963); Woman of the Year, Baton Rouge (1976); Board of Trustees, Episcopal High School, Baton Rouge, LA (1976-1980); Board of Trustees, Woman's Hospital (1968-1976); Advisory Council, Tulane University College of Business (1976-1978); Board of Directors, Charity Hospital; Honorary Doctorate in Public Administration, Northwestern Louisiana University (1991); Inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame, Winnfield, LA (1996); Alliance for Good Government, Past Presidents Award; Emily Gates Alumnae Achievement Award, Tri Sigma Sorority (1999); Louisiana Center for Women in Government Hall of Fame, Nicholls State University (1994); Who's Who in America, Who's Who of Women in Government, and Who's Who of Women in the World. Mrs. Parker is preceded in death by her husband, William Bryant Parker, and her parents, Racia and Addie Graham Dickerson. She is survived by two daughters, Mary Bryant Smith and Anne Parker Crochet; four grandchildren, Adam Smith, Bryant Smith, Mary Evelyn Smith, and Parker Crochet and four great-grandchildren, Summit Smith, David Smith, Caleb Smith, and Rachel Smith. Pallbearers are Major Adam Smith, US Army, Bryant Smith, Parker Crochet, David Crochet, Dale Miller and James Gore. Honorary pallbearers are Mark Alspaugh, Dr. Eugene Berry, Dr. Carl Luikart, Reverend Milton LeBlanc, Gerard Torry, Donna Willis, Sue Burkhalter and Janet Talmadge. Visitation will be Saturday, January 24th, 9:30am to 11:30am at Rabenhorst Funeral Home, 825 Government St., Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A service to celebrate the life of Mary Evelyn Parker will take place immediately following visitation, conducted by Stephen P. Dietzel. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Imagine Acts Ministry, 9209 Hilltrace Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70809. Mrs. Parker's final triumphant words to fellow Christians were: "See you in Jerusalem!"
Published in The Advocate from Jan. 20 to Jan. 24, 2015.