The Jodie and Johnnie Mae Parker Clan

Jodie, Jr. and Johnnie Mae were known in the community for their love for each other and their love of family. They met at Shiloh Church. Johnnie Mae tells the story of being in church and seeing this boy who kept smiling at her. She told her best friend, Ruth Parker, that the boy was staring at her. Ruth said, “That’s my brother, he likes you!” After Church one day, Parker, as Johnnie Mae called him, offered her a ride in his new car. She refused and he sped ahead ”kicking up dust” and convinced another group of girls to ride with him. Johnnie Mae said that you bet the next time Parker asked her to ride, she and her sisters got in the car. She added, ”–and we have been riding together ever since! “

Jodie, Jr. and Johnnie Mae decided to stay on the land in Notasulga that had been deeded to them by Jodie Parker, Sr. instead of following the Great Migration of Blacks from the South to the North and West to escape Jim Crow laws, segregation, and limited educational and employment opportunities. They were cotton farmers, primarily. Jodie supplemented his income by working at the Saw Mill in Notasulga where his pay was often shorted and there was nothing he could do about it. He also worked on a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project after the Great Depression helping to build the bridge overpass in Notasulga. Johnnie Mae was never allowed by her husband to work outside the home. Jodie, Jr. was very protective of his wife and children, especially the girls. He used to say that Johnnie Mae had enough to do rearing their own children. In actuality, he never wanted her to do domestic work in the homes of White men from whom he could not protect her. It was the only work available for unschooled Black women at the time.

With their meager financial resources, Jodie and Johnnie Mae controlled what they could in order to protect and feed their family. They made sure that there was always plenty to eat by growing as much as they could on the land that they owned. There were apples, pears, pomegranates, plums, pecans, persimmons, wild grapes, peanuts, watermelons, cantaloupes, greens, tomatoes, okra, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, eggs, sweet milk and buttermilk from the cows, bacon and ham from the hogs, corn for cooking and for grinding into cornmeal, and chickens to fry on Sundays after church. When a bale of cotton was ginned, it was a day of celebration with fried fish, fresh biscuits or corn bread, lemonade and homemade ice cream.

They lived to see their family prosper with many of their children owning businesses, founding churches and doing missionary work in both the North and the South. With their emphasis on education, they also lived to see many of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren go to college and travel the world. Most importantly, they lived to experience the love, respect and joy of their large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who showed their appreciation often for the sacrifices and loving parents who had given them such a sound beginning.