Mary Evelyn Parker
|Mary Evelyn Parker|
|Louisiana State Treasurer|
|Preceded by||Andrew Patrick Tugwell, Sr.|
|Succeeded by||Mary Landrieu|
|Born||Mary Evelyn Dickerson
November 8, 1920
Fullerton in Vernon Parish, Louisiana USA
|Spouse(s)||W. Bryant Parker (married 1954-1965, his death)|
|Children||Mary Bryant Parker
Ann Graham Parker
|Residence||Baton Rouge, Louisiana|
Mary Evelyn Dickerson Parker (born November 8, 1920) is a former Democratic state treasurer of Louisiana, having served from 1968-1987. She was the first woman to have held the position. Prior to her tenure as treasurer, she held several appointed positions in state government. She was an integral part of the Long faction and a close friend and strategist for both Governor Earl Kemp Long (1895–1960) and his wife, Blanche Revere Long (1902–1998) and later for Governor John J. McKeithen.
Early years and education
Mrs. Parker was born to Racia E. Dickerson and the former Addie Graham in Fullerton in Vernon Parish. She grew up in nearby Oakdale in Allen Parish. She attended Northwestern State University (then College) in Natchitoches on a scholarship recommended by one of her Oakdale High School teachers, William J. "Bill" Dodd, later the Louisiana lieutenant governor and superintendent of education. Miss Dickerson received her bachelor's degree in 1941. She was a social worker in Allen Parish from 1941–1943, while she also obtained a diploma in social work from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1943.
A real political player
Dodd helped Miss Dickerson to obtain the position of executive director of the Louisiana Department of Commerce and Industry in 1948 in the Long administration. From 1948-1952, she was also the Democratic national committeewoman from Louisiana. Miss Dickerson was a delegate to the 1948 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 1952, Miss Dickerson ran for the statewide position of register of the state land office, when the incumbent, Lucille May Grace stepped down to run unsuccessfully for governor. She ran on the Long ticket, with Carlos Spaht of Baton Rouge for governor and John McKeithen, a young lawyer from Columbia and an Earl Long floor leader in the legislature, seeking the position of lieutenant governor. Also running on the Long ticket was the choice for attorney general, Joseph A. Sims of Hammond. The Long candidates lost that year, and Miss Dickerson was defeated by the anti-Long choice, Ellen Bryan Moore of Baton Rouge.
Miss Grace, as a Long candidate, but one distrusted by Earl Long for his own reasons, returned in 1956 to unseat Mrs. Moore in the Democratic primary. She died in office a year later. Mrs. Moore returned to the post in 1960 and served until 1976, when the position cease to be elective.
Miss Dickerson married W. Bryant Parker of Baton Rouge on October 31, 1954. Sadly, the marriage lasted less than eleven years, for Mr. Parker died in May 1965. The Parkers had two daughters, Mary Bryant Parker and Anne Graham Parker. Mrs. Parker, widowed at forty-four, did not remarry. She has four grandchildren, Adam Smith, Bryant Smith, Mary Evelyn Smith, and Parker Crochet. She has three great-grandchildren, Summit, David, and Caleb Smith.
During a period when she was not in political office, Mrs. Parker was a successful insurance agent from 1952 to 1956 and a member of the prestigious Million Dollar Roundtable.
Mrs. Parker was chairman of the White House Conference on Children and Youth in 1960. She headed the Board of Public Welfare from 1956-1963. She was also a president of the Louisiana Conference of Social Welfare. She was a member of the board of directors of the Women's Hospital in Baton Rouge and a trustee of Episcopal High School.
Helping to elect McKeithen
In the 1963-1964 gubernatorial race, Mrs. Parker was a key operative in the campaign to elect John McKeithen, then one of the state's three public service commissioners, as governor. McKeithen's campaign was managed by Blanche Long, and Mrs. Parker delivered speeches on the candidate's behalf. One of her high-powered speeches—and Dodd had taught her speech at Oakdale High School—televised across the state was called "All that Glitters Is Not Gold." The title referred to a line from Shakespeare, but it was really an effective attack on the "reform" record of McKeithen's intraparty opponent, former New Orleans Mayor deLesseps Story Morrison, Sr. In her stern, tough, no-nonsense demeanor, Mrs. Parker was in fact playing the role as "hatchet woman" for the McKeithen forces. A similar newspaper ad entitled "The Myth of Mr. Morrison" featured on side of the page "Morrison Claims" and opposite that "The Truth Is".
In the first McKeithen term, she was rewarded with a position in the Division of Administration.
Writes Dodd, in his memoirs entitled Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics:
"As a teacher [in Oakdale High School], I had taught her how to speak; as a legislator, I had gotten her a scholarship that gave her a college education [Northwestern State]; and as lieutenant governor, I had found her a big job in our administration. She was a wonderful speaker and a good administrator, but she must have been a born ingrate." The latter remark referred to Mrs. Parker having undercut Dodd in his gubernatorial campaigns of 1951-1952 and again in 1959.
Election as treasurer, 1968
In 1967, Mrs. Parker donned the hat of "efficient administrator" and ran with McKeithen's support for state treasurer. She retained the services of a fledgling press secretary and consultant named Raymond Strother: it was the first campaign that Strother, later one of the most successful campaign organizers in Louisiana and throughout the South, ever managed. Strother has worked almost exclusively for Democrats, including Texas Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr., and former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes.
Mrs. Parker was the first woman to be elected treasurer of Louisiana. She ran to succeed 32-year incumbent Andrew Patrick "Pat" Tugwell, Sr., who had announced his retirement. She was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. In the general election held on February 6, 1968, she defeated Republican nominee Allison Ray Kolb (1915–1973) of Baton Rouge. Kolb was the only Republican challenging any of the Democratic nominees for state constitutional offices that year, and his candidacy was not taken serious by voters. He had been auditor (when he was a Democrat) in the administration of former Governor Robert F. Kennon. Mrs. Parker won all sixty-four parishes: 337,234 (73.7 percent) to Kolb's 120,253 (26.3 percent). She polled at least 57 percent of the vote in all parishes except Lafayette and East Baton Rouge parishes.
In her later elections, Parker was a runaway winner over her opponents.
In 1980, Parker appeared before the House Retirement Committee, chaired then by Shady R. Wall of West Monroe, to appeal for improved retirement benefits for the lesser state constitutional officers, including herself as treasurer and the secretary of state, education superintendent, insurance commissioner, elections commissioner, agriculture commissioner, and attorney general. Greater benefits were then being paid to legislators, former governors, and judges than to the constitutional officers. Wall adjourned the committee without acting on Parker's request. Few on the committee seemed sympathetic to Parker's appeal. One committee member in fact, Ron Gomez of Lafayette, tried to reduce the retirement payments of former governors, judges, and legislators back to the level of Parker and the other constitutional officers, but Wall refused to recognize Gomez to offer his amendment.
Parker served until January 1, 1987, when she retired with nearly a year and a half left in her fifth term. Mary Landrieu, her fellow Democratic woman and then a state representative from New Orleans, was elected in 1987 to succeed her as treasurer. Mary Landrieu defeated three fellow Democrats for the post, including two legislative colleagues, former U.S. Representative Anthony Claude "Buddy" Leach, Jr., a wealthy Leesville businessman and the current Louisiana Democratic Party state chairman, and (2) Kevin P. Reilly, Sr., then the CEO of the Lamar Advertising Company in Baton Rouge.
On her retirement, Mrs. Parker received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Northwestern State University. In 1976, she was named Baton Rouge's "Woman of the Year. She was also listed in "Who's Who in America." In 1994, she, along with Virginia Shehee, Virginia Martinez, and Lindy Boggs, was among the first nine inductees into the new Louisiana Center for Women and Government Hall of Fame at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. In 1996, Parker was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. She is a Baptist.
Parker and two other Louisiana Democrats, U.S. District Judge Adrian Duplantier and former State Representative Risley C. Triche of Napoleonville in Assumption Parish, were interviewed for the 2001 book Welfare Racism: Playing the Race Card Against America's Poor. The three testified to their personal knowledge of racism in 1960-1961 in Louisiana against African American public assistance recipients. Parker's expertise on the matter is based on her former tenure as head of the State Welfare Board.
- Minden Herald, Minden, Louisiana, January 6, 1964, p. 8
- William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishers, 1991, pp. 59-60
- "USA Local Elective Office". Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- "Mary Evelyn Parker". Archived from the original on 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2006-09-29.
- Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, pp. 73-76, ISBN=0-9700156-0-7
- ""Louisiana Center for Women and Government" – Past Inductees". Nicholls.edu. Retrieved September 6, 2009.
- "Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame". cityofwinnfield.com. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
- Kenneth J. Neubeck, Noel A. Cazenave, Welfare Racism: Playing the Race Card Against America's Poor, 2001. Google Books, p. x. 2001. ISBN 9780415923408. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
Who's Who in America, 1978
Andrew P. Tugwell, Sr., (D)
|Louisiana State Treasurer
Mary Evelyn Parker (D)
Mary Landrieu (D)