John Milliken Parker, Sr. (March 16, 1863 – May 20, 1939), was an
American Democratic politician from Louisiana, who served as the
state's 37th Governor from 1920 to 1924. He was a friend and admirer
of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
1 Early years
2 Parker the Progressive
3 Parker's record as governor
4 Post-gubernatorial years
5 World War I
8 External links
Parker was born in Washington, a village in St. Landry Parish, in
south central Louisiana. He was educated at the historic prep school
Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Port Gibson, Mississippi, Belle View
Eastman Business College in Pughkeepsie, New York. A
prominent businessman, he was the president of the
New Orleans Cotton
Exchange and the Board of Trade.
In 1891, Parker participated in the mob that lynched eleven Italian
immigrants in New Orleans, avenging the murder of Police Chief David
C. Hennessy. He refused to apologize for his role because he believed
the mass lynching was justified.
Parker the Progressive
Parker first ran for governor in 1916 as the nominee of Roosevelt's
1912 Progressive Party and polled 37.2 percent of the vote against the
Democratic choice, Ruffin Golson Pleasant of Shreveport. Later in
1916, the national Progressive Party chose Parker as its candidate for
vice president, but Roosevelt returned to the GOP fold and endorsed
Charles Evans Hughes
Charles Evans Hughes for president. The Democrats
Woodrow Wilson and
Thomas Marshall were nevertheless reelected to the presidency and vice
presidency. Four years later, Parker returned to the Democratic fold,
considered an essential move to win a
Louisiana election at the time,
and was elected governor with former opponent Pleasant's support.
Louisiana governors were then term-limited after a single four-year
term but could seek second terms after sitting out four years.
Parker's record as governor
As governor, Parker was known for his interest in building gravel
roads in rural areas. There were few paved highways at the time in
Parker advocated increased oil and gas severance taxes to finance
public education. Huey Pierce Long, Jr., criticized Parker's tax plan
as "too little" for the state's needs. Parker also opposed the New
Orleans political machine.
Like Roosevelt, Parker was a staunch conservationist of natural
resources and the environment. And he was sceptical of large business
combinations that tended to become monopolies.
Parker led the move to draw up the
Louisiana Constitution of 1921. He
also pushed for the relocation of
Louisiana State University from the
downtown to the southern part of Baton Rouge. His old rival Huey Long
later tried to mold LSU into the Long mystique.
Parker failed to increase educational funding to the level desired and
to expand state civil service protection. He often found that his
fiscal conservatism was in conflict with his progressive spirit.
In 1922, Governor Parker sent the
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation a
message begging for help in fighting the Ku Klux Klan, which had grown
so powerful in
Louisiana that it not only controlled the northern half
of the state but had kidnapped, tortured, and killed two people who
Parker commuted the death sentences of two African Americans, Chester
Tyson and Mark Peters, convicted in a notorious murder case in the
community of Grove in Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana. On
Christmas Day 1916, the family of John Nelson Reeves, including his
wife Maude and three of their four children, was bludgeoned to death
by a group of axe-wielding men. The presumed motive for the killing
was money that Reeves, who distrusted banks, had boasted of having
stashed away in a mattress in his house. The prosecutor in the case,
Harmon Caldwell Drew
Harmon Caldwell Drew of Minden, had been on the job for less than a
month when the crime occurred. The district judge in the case was John
N. Sandlin, later a
U.S. representative and like Drew an occasional
intraparty opponent of the Longs from Minden.
A petition sent to the
Louisiana Board of Pardons claimed that two
white men, Henry Waller and Johnie Long, had actually planned and
carried out the crime but had each received life sentences, rather
than the death penalty. Governor Parker, on Sandlin's recommendation,
commuted the sentences of Tyson and Peters to twenty years, and they
were released in 1936. Parker blamed the confusion over the case on
his predecessor, Governor Pleasant, for having hesitated in carrying
out the initial sentence of hanging.
After his gubernatorial term ended, Parker devoted himself to his
experimental farm at Bayou Sara near St. Francisville in West
Feliciana Parish. In June 1929, he was named president of the
Constitutional League of Louisiana, which was organized at the St.
Charles Hotel in
New Orleans to "save the state from Huey Long". State
Norris C. Williamson of East Carroll Parish became the
vice-president of the 300-member group. Two other former governors,
Jared Y. Sanders, Sr., and
Ruffin Pleasant also spoke out against the
Long political organization.
Parker died in 1939 at the age of seventy-six in Pass Christian,
Mississippi, east of New Orleans. He is interred at Metairie Cemetery
in New Orleans.
John M. Parker
John M. Parker Agricultural Coliseum on the LSU campus
is named in his honor.
World War I
Roosevelt selected Parker as one of eighteen officers (others
included: Seth Bullock, Frederick Russell Burnham, and James Rudolph
Garfield) to raise a volunteer infantry division, Roosevelt's World
War I volunteers, for service in
France in 1917. The U.S. Congress
gave Roosevelt the authority to raise up to four divisions similar to
Rough Riders of 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry Regiment and
to the British Army 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers;
however, as Commander-in-chief, U.S. President
Woodrow Wilson refused
to make use of the volunteers, and the unit hence disbanded.
Business and Economics portal
^ Bennett H. Wall, "Louisiana: A History", (Harlan Davidson, Inc.,
2008), pp. 268
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation – Press Room – Headline Archives
Archived September 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. at www.fbi.gov
^ Marilyn Miller, Sons of Darkness Sons of Light (Many, Louisiana:
Sweet Dreams Publishing Co., 2000), pp. Foreword, 1–4,
^ Miller, Sons of Darkness Sons of Light, pp. 187–188
^ Huey P. Long, Jr., Every Man a King: The Autobiography of Huey P.
Long (New Orleans: National Book Club, Inc., 1933), p. 183.
^ Roosevelt, Theodore (1917). The Foes of Our Own Household. New York:
George H. Doran company. p. 347. LCCN 17025965.
Louisiana – Biography
Cemetery Memorial by La-Cemeteries
John M. Parker
John M. Parker at Find a Grave
Governor of Louisiana
May 11, 1920–May 13, 1924
Henry L. Fuqua
Governors of Louisiana
State (since 1868)
M. J. Foster
J. B. Edwards