Mary Lou Parker was a well-known and respected professional artist, poet, newspaper journalist, art teacher, her church’s minister, gospel song-writer, and pianist who made her family’s home in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Ms. Parker married local mortician Joshua Sanders Parker and was the mother to Betty Hawthrone and Roberta Derixson. Parker is remembered today for writing the gospel hit “Do You Know Him?” It is still performed and recorded today.
Photo from front page Mt. Vernon Register-News February 4, 1991.
A very socially-engaged, outgoing person, Parker was one of the first Cedarhurst Administrative Counselors (1973-1978), she taught in the Mt. Vernon Art Guild, and chaired the 1974 Southern Illinois Artists Open Competition (now the Cedarhurst Biennial). Parker had solo exhibitions at the Mitchell Museum (“Through the Eyes of the Artist” 1974) and Rend Lake Junior College where Parker also taught art.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Parker grew up in Centralia, Illinois, and studied at Mt. Vernon Community College. An award-winning visual artist, Ms. Parker was also an ordained minister who wrote a religious column for the Mt. Vernon Register-News. She excelled at poetry and music, writing the gospel hit, “Do You Know Him?”. Parker also wrote “It’s a Long, Long Way,” and “Jesus When Troubles Burden Me Down” which were recorded by Mahalia Jackson, the Staple Singers, Charles May/Annette May Thomas, Cora Martin/Sallie Martin, and the Christian Tabernacle Choir/Reverend Maceo Woods.
Parker’s visual talent and professional expertise was recognized by the Amoges Studio of Chicago where she painted china dinnerware that sold in Marshall Fields and Saks Fifth Avenue, New York.
Winter landscapes covered in snow were Parker’s favorite scenes to paint.
Today, Parker’s winter landscape may be seen in the permanent collection of Cedarhurst.
MARY LOU PARKER, Des Moines, Iowa (1918) – Mt. Vernon, Illinois (2009),
Untitled, [Winter barn scene], 1974, watercolor, Gift of Carl Schweinfurth Estate 2013.51