Leaders in North Birmingham said this week they have lost a unique and tireless voice for their community with the death of Maxine Parker.
Before Parker was a three-times-elected Birmingham City Council member, she was a neighborhood leader who championed change in the form of safer pedestrian and commuter routes and revitalization.
Parker died Nov. 12 at the age of 69. For years the representative of the city’s fourth district, she had recently been elected president of the Birmingham City Council.
“She loved her neighborhood,” said Vivian Starks, current president of the Collegeville Neighborhood Association.
Starks worked as secretary of the Collegeville Neighborhood Association under Parker’s leadership and recalled Parker’s biggest battle in securing funding for an overpass that will keep traffic flowing when trains block parts of the neighborhood.
Parker set about to gain relief from the trains that often clog traffic flow in Collegeville. She wanted to see to it that there were alternate routes for both pedestrians and vehicles to get around the trains safely.
Parker and the neighborhood championed a $10 million overpass for cars and a pedestrian crosswalk for a decade. “She had to go all the way to Washington for the money and then she had to get the city to match the funds,” Starks recalled.
Work on that long-awaited overpass, to be handled by the Alabama Department of Transportation, is slated to begin in February. Starks said the neighborhood will do something before then to honor Parker and her dedication to the project.
For Jones Monday, the president of the Harriman Park Neighborhood Association, North Birmingham had no better representation on the city council than that of Parker.
“She always listened to us and then tried to see that our needs were met,” said Monday. “She stayed in the neighborhood and so she could tell you everything that was going on.”
Monday said that Parker “opened the door for us” to be a part of ongoing discussions with the industries in North Birmingham and work being done with the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the toxic air and soil in their neighborhoods.
The EPA has been a presence in northern Birmingham for several years, taking samples of hundreds of properties in an effort to remedy industrial contamination.
Sandra Brown, a former president of the North Birmingham neighborhood, said Parker was committed to improving residents’ quality of life in that part of the city. “Mrs. Parker made great strides to improve the living conditions in the Collegeville, Fairmont, Harriman Park and North Birmingham neighborhoods,” Brown said. “She was an advocate working hard to get the contamination problem cleaned up in our community. No other person has traveled as much as Mrs. Parker to Montgomery and Washington working for better living conditions for the people in her neighborhood and community.”
Jones said Parker always alerted neighborhood residents to what was going on with industrial permits and other issues relating to the EPA’s work in the area.
Monday also noted that Parker had an eye on revitalization for North Birmingham and was working to bring in affordable housing and commercial development to the area.
“I don’t know if anyone will be able to fill her shoes,” Monday said.
“We are extremely saddened by the loss of Councilor Maxine Herring Parker,” said Melodie Echols, executive director of the Norwood Resource Center. “She represented our district with dignity and a passion for the community she loved. I, personally, was blessed to know her and am grateful for all she has done for the City of Birmingham. She will be missed and remembered well.”
At a news conference after Parker’s death, Birmingham Mayor William Bell referred to her as a “gentle woman, who was stern in her convictions.” He encouraged continued support of her legacy of protecting the environment and building stronger neighborhoods throughout North Birmingham.