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At 104, Dr. Ora Mae Parker Shares Her Key to Longevity

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Ora Mae Parker
By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times 

Dr. Ora Mae Parker turned 104 earlier this year and continues to do what she has done her entire life. 

“I always liked to teach people,” she said in an interview with The Birmingham Times. “I was a good student myself, so I just did what came naturally. I started to notice that I had a gift to explain. When I would teach someone how to do something, they just got it. It is truly a gift that God has blessed me with, and I want to make sure I spent my life living up to it.”

All Parker knows is to give and volunteer in her community. Some of her work has included city neighborhood meetings at the Birmingham Public Library Branch on Sixth Avenue South.

“I would go to those meetings and we would all talk about how to make our community better,” she said. “You want to take pride in where you live, that was my goal with serving in these meetings.”

Parker was born May 12, 1917, in Marengo County (Thomaston) to Mr. Bruce and Eula Banks. The family moved to Jefferson County while Parker was an infant. “I had a wonderful childhood,” she said. “I remember going to this park in Ensley and just swinging away. I was a carefree little girl.”

As a current member of the First Baptist Church in Ensley, Parker taught Sunday School, sung in the choir, and worked in the Missionary Ministry. And there she also wanted to make sure she gave back. 

 She honored her home church by sponsoring the media project, resulting in three large media screens for broadcasting the Word. “It was something that needed to be done in the church,” she said. “As a giving and caring person, I said…’Why not me?’”

Parker attended Birmingham City Schools graduating from Councill Elementary School in Ensley, A.H Parker High School, and Freeman Business College. 

After marrying Rev. Dr. Charles H. Parker, the couple moved to Selma, Alabama. While there she continued her studies and earned a B.S. Degree in Elementary Education from Alabama State University and a M. Ed degree from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. 

Parker then received an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from Birmingham Baptist Bible College. Her love for education led her to the Jefferson County School System for 32 years. Her first teaching job was at Hooper City High School. Her last position was at Shades Mountain Elementary in 1990. 

She also has served as an adult reading instructor, Chaplain of the local Birmingham Alumni chapter of Alabama State University and was Secretary of the Alabama State Congress of Christian Education for more than 30 years and sat on the Board of Directors for Birmingham Easonian Baptist Bible College for more than 40. 

Parker’s hobbies are reading and singing her favorite church hymns. Her favorite Bible Scripture is Psalm 116:12, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” 

Parker says her only key to longevity is solely the Lord, as he brought her through so “many wonderful things, I am proud to see 104.”

She added that her advice to the youth of today is: “Give your life over to the Lord, he will direct your steps and you will never not have to question another thing. He will guide you.”

Click one of the links below to read related stories. 

Meet the Birmingham Residents — all 100 or Older — Who Inspire

UAB Geriatrics Expert on the Key to ‘Successful Aging’

The Tireless Work of Jefferson County’s Area Agency on Aging