From the Pen of Carter P. Smith
Texas’ woods and waters fell silent recently as hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts across the state mourned the passing of one of Texas’ most ardent conservationists and outdoorsmen. Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner John Parker died peacefully at his home in Lufkin in late January. At 73 years of age, he left this earth, and his beloved Pineywoods, way too soon.
For all those who knew Commissioner Parker, they will most assuredly attest that there was nothing peaceful about the way he approached matters pertaining to hooks, bullets, fish, game, state parks and the future of our outdoor heritage. His passion for such things was legendary. His work ethic on their behalf was without bounds. His commitment to conservation was beyond reproach. And, his patience for those who did not value the future of our state’s lands and waters was razor thin.
I first had the pleasure of meeting John Parker when I was being considered for the position of executive director at this agency. His reputation for curiosity and lively discourse preceded him, and I soon found myself enmeshed in a wide ranging, nearly four-hour dinner conversation about the future of our youth, the state of our gulf fisheries, the decline of our grassland birds, the inadequacies of conservation funding, and the virtues of state parks. He ended the evening with an impromptu pop quiz of my knowledge of the history of the menhaden fishery, a gift of three books he thought I should read post-haste, and a homework assignment to study up on the bottomlands of the Neches River.
It was vintage John Parker, and I chuckle every time I think about it.
“Commissioner Parker” as those of us on staff called him, or “Parker,” as most others did, never tired nor shied away from his responsibilities as a commissioner. There was no issue too big or too small for John. There was no “bad time” to engage him in a conversation about a matter involving the department. If it involved his beloved out of doors, the youth of Texas, or the future of funding for state parks, he was right in the middle of it. As he saw it, his job was to serve the needs, interests and well being of the hunters, fishermen and park users of Texas, and he did just that every waking minute of every single day. If he didn’t think you were committed to the same, God help you.
John Parker served the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a commissioner with distinction and dedication for six years. The lands, waters, fish, wildlife, parks and outdoor enthusiasts he served are much better off because of it. On behalf of all of us at the department, I offer my most sincere thanks.