Mary Evelyn Parker, Louisiana’s first female state treasurer, has died. She was 94.
Parker died at her Baton Rouge home Saturday morning of complications from a heart attack she suffered in November, relatives said.
Parker was known for her strong Christian faith — she was a lifelong Baptist — humble spirit and dedication to her family, said Parker’s daughter, Mary Bryant Smith.
Her lengthy public service career began in 1948 when gubernatorial candidate Earl Long asked her to narrate his radio campaign speeches, Smith said.
Parker first caught Long’s attention as a standout on her debate team at Northwestern State University, where she once helped beat powerhouse Harvard, Smith said.
After stints as a high school English teacher and editor of the Oakdale Journal, Parker began delivering speeches around the state for Long, Smith said.
When Long won the election, he appointed Parker executive director of the Louisiana Department of Commerce and Industry. She later became chairwoman of the Board of Public Welfare, a position that changed her focus as a public official, Smith said.
“Being in that job was pivotal,” Smith said. “She saw people who were truly needy and down on their luck and that made a lasting impression on her.”
In 1968, Parker was elected the state’s first female treasurer, a position she held until 1988. Former Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., took the helm after Parker retired at age 65.
“Mother could have stayed on another 20 years, but she said, ‘I want to leave on top,’ ” Smith said. “She wanted to be a wonderful and devoted grandmother.”
Parker was born Nov. 28, 1920, in Fullerton, the daughter of Racia Dickerson, a saw mill laborer, and the former Addie Graham, a homemaker.
Douglas is survived by two children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Follow Matt McKinney on Twitter, @Mmckinne17.