Actuated at all times by high ideals having to do with all of the duties and relations of life and particularly in connection with the Choctaw and other civilized tribes of what was once the Indian Territory, Gabe Edward Parker of Muskogee has left the impress of his individuality and ability in large measure upon the history of this section. He retired from the office of Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes on the 31st of May, 1921, and is now concentrating his efforts and attention upon the management of private business interests, being the President of the Muskogee Ice Cream Company.
Oklahoma numbers Gabe Edward Parker among her native sons, his birth having occurred at Fort Towson, Choctaw County, September 29, 1878, his parents being John Clay and Eliza Emily (Willis) Parker. The father was born in Boyle County, Kentucky, and was descended from English, Scotch-Irish and French Huguenot ancestry. He belonged to a wealthy and prominent family but his fortune was lost during the period of the Civil war and he made his way westward to retrieve his lost possessions. In the Indian Territory he met and wedded Miss Eliza Emily Willis, a quarter blood Choctaw Indian, who was born at Fort Towson in the same house in which occurred the birth of Mr. Parker of this review. She was a lady of liberal culture and education and was a teacher in the Choctaw schools, in which her son, Gabe E., received his early training. Mr. and Mrs. John C. Parker became parents of nine children, but only four are living: Gabe E., James W., Lucile and Georgia. The family home was established on a ranch near Nelson, Oklahoma, when Gabe E. Parker was but a year and a half old. There the father became a prominent stockman and agriculturist and both he and his wife continued to reside on the old homestead until called to their final rest. Their son, James W., is still on the farm, having the management of the ranch. He wedded Edna Reed and they have become parents of two children. The daughter Lucile is employed in Washington, D. C., and Georgia makes her home with her brother.
Mr. Parker acknowledges a considerable indebtedness to the Choctaws for his education as they contributed the tribal funds to defray his college expenses. He attended Spencer Academy, from which he was graduated in 1894 and then became a student in Henry Kendall College, then at Muskogee but now at Tulsa, in which he won the Bachelor of Science degree and was also valedictorian of his class, that of 1899. It was his early ambition to become a member of the bar but owing to his mother’s death he did not carry out his plans of preparing for the legal profession. Instead, after attending the Kansas State Normal School for a term, he accepted the position of assistant teacher at the Spencer Academy in the fall of 1899. Three months later he was advanced to the position of Superintendent of that school and there remained until the academy was destroyed by fire in July, 1900. In the fall of that year he was transferred to Armstrong Academy, a school for Choctaw boys, remaining as principal teacher and in July, 1904 becoming Superintendent of the institution. He was filling the position in September, 1913, when he received appointment to the office of registrar of the United States treasury at Washington, D. C., there entering upon his duties on the 1st of October. He remained in the national capital until December 31, 1914, when he resigned his position, having been appointed on the 22d of the same month as Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes, taking up the duties of this office on the 1st of January, 1915. Two weeks later the Long Branch Daily Record wrote of him as follows: “Through the devious trail of politics Gabe E. Parker, a one-eighth blood Choctaw Indian, has just achieved the ambition of his life. Without solicitation or even knowledge on his part he was taken from the principalship of an Indian boys’ school in Oklahoma and made registrar of the United States treasury. Mr. Parker gave up his chosen work-that of helping his own people to become competent, self-reliant, contributing men and women only after a struggle. Now he is about to return to Oklahoma as Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes, with broader opportunity than ever before to accomplish the task he had originally set for himself. The job Mr. Parker goes to fill in Oklahoma is a big one. It involves the welfare of one hundred and two thousand Indians of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee tribes, who desire to become citizens in fact as well as in name. Under the constitution of Oklahoma they are citizens of the state. They are wards of the nation so long as the government retains a control in trust of the fifteen million acres of their land, including the richest oil fields of the world and four hundred and fifty thousand acres of coal and asphalt lands. Mr. Parker’s job is to carry out the policies of the present administration and to discharge into full and complete citizenship as many of these one hundred and two thousand Indians as are ready for the change, or may become so under his direction. This policy is a new one, and, in a sense, a revolutionary one in view of the policy of the government pursued up to this time. Mr. Parker promises to approach it cautiously. * * * If enthusiasm for the work at hand is an asset Mr. Parker is one of the best equipped men for his new job that could be found anywhere. He exudes it and with difficulty tries to suppress it, but it is there. * * * Mr. Parker believes in his people. He believes in the government of the nation and the state and in their intentions toward them. He designed the seal of the great state of Oklahoma, which symbolizes the ‘sisterhood of states’ and intermingles the former seals of Oklahoma territory and of the Five Civilized Tribes of the Indian territory. He is known as `Great Seal’ Parker for this achievement. He served on many important committees in the constitutional convention of Oklahoma with special reference to the Indians, the schools and taxation, and declined to enter politics when his work was through. As between the two phases of the Indian question, the personal and the property phases, Mr. Parker desires to emphasize the personal as preeminently important. As a school teacher he was deeply interested in solving problems which would bring his charges to a full and complete realization of the responsibilities of citizenship, and he endeavored to give them such a practical application of their book learning as would accomplish that purpose. Mt. Parker is a man whose earnestness of purpose sticks out of every word and deed. The policy of this administration toward his people is his policy because he believes in it. Whether right or wrong, it is certain to have a genuine test under his administration in Oklahoma.”
The above was written at the outset of his work as Superintendent. His labors in this particular measured up to the highest standards and won him high encomium from the tribesmen and from the general public. His work was far-reaching, beneficial and resultant and he continued in the office until the 31st of May, 1921.
Mr. Parker was married December 25, 1900, to Miss Louise Elizabeth George, a native of Topeka, Kansas, who had been his classmate at Spencer Academy and who was later a teacher in that institution. Mr. and Mrs. Parker have one son, Gabe E., Jr. Since his retirement from office Mr. Parker has given his entire attention to the management of an important business enterprise known as the Muskogee Ice Cream Company, of which he is President and general manager. He also has farming and stock raising interests and is likewise financially interested in banks of the state. Fraternally he is a Mason, who has attained the thirty-second degree of the Scottish Rite and has become a member of the Mystic Shrine. He has always voted with the Democratic Party and has ever been thoroughly informed concerning the vital questions and issues before the public. His religious belief is that of the Presbyterian Church and his life has been actuated by the highest principles and ideals. His labors have been most wisely and conscientiously directed along lines leading to public progress and improvement for those of Indian birth and parentage and for the entire public as well. The worth of his work is widely acknowledged and he is today one of the most honored and valued residents of Oklahoma.