Articles of Mamie Parker
Dr. Mamie Parker, UAPB Alumna, Reflects on 30-Year Career as Pioneer in Conservation
When she was appointed northeast regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Dr. Mamie Parker, a 1980 alumna of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), had an unexpected moment to reflect on her career and life accomplishments up to that point. Standing before a wall of black-and-white framed photographs of former regional directors, the staff informed Dr. Parker that they specifically wanted to take her portrait in color.
“He told me that the FWS had finally selected the first African American in that position in the agency’s 135-year history,” Dr. Parker said. “At that moment, I got very emotional and thought about the accomplishment and what it took to get there. I also thought about the challenging implications as a leader. It’s OK to be the first at something – but that gives you the responsibility not to be the last.”
Now retired from the FWS, Dr. Parker was recently elected chairman of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Commission. She is also the first African American to serve in this position in the history of the agency.
The first African-American woman to be the head of Fisheries and a regional office at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dr. Mamie Parker retired from a successful federal career and now works as a coach to nonprofit and government leaders. She serves on the boards of several conservation organizations—including that of The Nature Conservancy of Virginia. Nature Conservancy magazine spoke with her in June 2020 about the intertwined issues of conservation, environmental justice, and forging partnerships with communities of color.
Mamie Parker, a former assistant director of fisheries and habitat conservation at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the first African-American to head a regional office for that agency. But when she started out in the field, she says, she “did not see anyone that looked like me doing this type of work.”
When she was in ninth grade, Parker says, “I heard the song by Marvin Gaye, ‘Mercy, mercy me. Things are not like they used to be.’ He talked about the pollution in the air, and the wind that was blowing poison and radiation and all of that.” She decided she wanted to do something about it.
Maurice Jackson, Family and Community Fishing Program Coordinator with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, will deliver the S.A. Haley Memorial Lecture at the 63rd Annual Rural Life Conference, Friday, Feb. 1, at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Dr. Mamie Parker, president of Ma Parker and Associates and an executive coach and facilitator, will be the luncheon speaker.
Jackson was the first African-American fisheries biologist for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. He was a hatchery supervisor and an aquatic education biologist. He worked to create Perry Lakes Barton Beach preserve which encompasses 700 acres and provides access to one of the most diverse river systems for aquatic life in North America, the Cahaba River.