LOLA MERCEDES PARKER
Lola Mercedes Parker, founder of Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas to Mr. and Mrs. John H. Smith around 1900. After finishing elementary school, she and her family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where she completed high school. In 1919, she became a resident of Chicago, Illinois, where she began her post secondary education, culminating with graduation from Chicago Business College. In 1922 she married William S. Parker. Two children were born of this union, both of whom preceded their parents in death.
In 1929, while employed as secretary to Rev. L. K. Williams, then president of the National Baptist Convention, she founded Iota Phi Lambda. Its aim: “To encourage young women to enter the Business Field by means of business training”. Lola M. Parker was founder of a premier sorority and its National President from 1929 to 1946 and President-Emeritus until her demise in 1987.
Subsequent to her employment with Dr. Williams, Mrs. Parker held many important positions: Administrative Assistant to Congressman Arthur W. Mitchell; Director of Women’s Activities; Chicago Negro Chamber of Commerce; first Negro Department Manager at R.H. Donnelley Corporation; Secretary –Treasurer, Business and Professional Association’s Credit Union; and Business manager, South Parkway YWCA.
In 1935, as the sorority’s National President, she was instrumental in Iota Phi Lambda Sorority being present when Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune held the historic first meeting of the National Council of Negro Women on December 5, 1935, in Harlem. The sorority was one of three sororities present, along with representation from other national organizations.
She was active in many national and community organizations including member of Olivet Baptist Church; served as National Vice-President to the Women’s Army for National Defense; National Council of Negro Women, co-organizer of the first Chicago Section; Life Member NAACP; People’s Welfare Organization; YWCA; and many national and local organizations engaged in civic endeavors for racial, educational and economic progress.
Lola Mercedes Parker died on March 19, 1987, and was buried in Lincoln Cemetery, 12300 Kedzie Avenue, Blue Island, Illinois.