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Garald G. "Jerry" Parker, Sr. (1905-2000)

photo of Dr. Parker
Water Supply Paper 1255
Aquifer Man
Additional Links
Jerry is rightfully known as the "Father of Florida groundwater hydrology." He started his hydrogeologist career in 1940 by driving his family all the way across the country to help save the Miami water supply. There he identified sources of saltwater intrusion into the well fields and developed protective measures. During this time, (1940-1947) Jerry identified and named the Biscayne aquifer, the Floridan aquifer and defined the geologic structure of southern Florida.

Additionally, he was instrumental in teaching Marjory Stoneman Douglas about the Everglades - a "River of Grass" - in preparation for her 1947 book. He also discovered the Peninsular Florida Hydrologic Divide which results in the southern portion of Florida being entirely dependent on rainfall for its freshwater. Jerry devoted his life to protecting the waters and landscapes of Florida and many other states during his half century career as a hydrologist. He was with the U.S. Geological Survey (1940-1969) and then he served as the first hydrologist and senior scientist for the Southwest Florida Water Management District (1969-1975). Afterwards, he worked as a consultant, in Florida and also internationally, into the 1990's.

The following statements are from Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998):

"When Hervey Allen asked me to do this book, I was overwhelmed with the realization that although I had lived in South Florida for many years and had known some parts of the Everglades, I had no idea at all what they were or where I could begin to write about them. So I began, as I often have done, by asking John Pennkamp, editor of the Miami Herald and now a member of the Everglades National Park Commission. He sent me directly to Garald G. Parker, head of the U.S. Geological Survey [Miami study group], whose remarkable studies of the geology and ground water of the Everglades are the first thorough studies ever made. Mr. Parker gave me my first clear idea of the single nature of the Glades area, with its characteristic, the saw grass. ..."

Acknowledgements: The Everglades: River of Grass, January 1947

In 1943, after being asked to contribute to a series on American rivers, she began writing the Everglades book for which she is best known.

"I went right up and started working with Garald Parker, the great hydrologist who discovered and named the Biscayne Aquifer. He was working on his report on the groundwater of southeastern Florida. He had told me it was running water and that its sources are the rivers flowing into Lake Okeechobee, though he didn't say then that its ultimate source is rainwater. I thought, well you've got the east bank, the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, and the Big Cypress for the west bank. And I remembered that the Indians call it pa-hay-okee, grassy waters. So I said 'Mr. Parker do you think I could get away with calling it a river of grass?' And he said 'Well, I think you could.'"

Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the Glades Crusade, By Steve Yates, Audubon magazine, March 1983

NOTE: Marjory was under contract to write about the Miami River. Garald Parker helped to make it possible for her to write a book about the Everglades instead.

A forum was dedicated to Jerry Parker, Sr.:

Natural Resources Forum Watershed Science, Policy, Planning, and Management, Can We Make It Work In Florida?

Embassy Suites
Tampa Busch Gardens
Tampa, Florida
June 19-21, 2001

For further information, visit their website at: http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/nrf/

Jerry Parker, Sr. Memorial Dedication

On Thursday, June 21, at the end of the forum, there was a dedication for a memorial site in Green Swamp that has been established by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Lowry Park Zoo, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The memorial site is located to the northwest of Tampa and just south of Dade City.

Additional information will be provided on the forum web page above as it becomes available.

Photo of Dr. Parker at a meeting for the American Water Works Association
(L to R) Garald G. Parker (Sr.), Kenneth S. Love, Wm. P. Cross, Edwin W. Reed, Herbert A. Swenson, Russell H. Brown, Wm. J. Drescher. This group of men were attending an American Water Works Association, at the Osceola Hotel, Daytona Beach, FL. The date was November 14, 1941.
Water Supply Paper 1255

Water Resources of Southeastern Florida

with Special Reference to the Geology and Ground Water of the Miami Area

by Garald G. Parker, G.E. Ferguson, S.K. Love, and others

(You can view the entire paper online.)

(a portion of the the Water Supply Paper follows:)

"The rapid increase in population of southern Florida during the past two decades has been phenomenal. As a concomitant of this large population growth there has been increased usage of the natural resources of the area, and various attempts have been made to develop these resources.

The result has been a radical change in the natural hydrologic balance; some changes, which were not anticipated, have had deleterious effects. To study these changes, present conditions, and possible future changes, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the cities of Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, and Dade County, began an investigation of the water resources of southeastern Florida in the fall of 1939 (some records of stage and discharge of streams were started in 1930). Particular emphasis was placed on the geology and ground water of the Miami area."

The Palm Beach Post
Aquifer Man

July 5, 2005
Newspaper Article
Staff Writer Michael Browning

You can view the entire article about Garald's life and career online. Excerpts from the article follow:

Like a brilliant doctor feeling the pulse of a patient whose skin was hundreds, even thousands of feet thick, Garald Parker over half a century ago mapped out the veins and arteries of South Florida's life's blood: Water.

After infinite toil and observation, after long trips into the Everglades and painstaking examination of test borings throughout the southern peninsula, this quiet ex-schoolteacher from Oregon did more to inventory the state's hidden liquid wealth than any man in history.

University Of Florida
Oral History Program

February 27, 1992
Interviewee: Garald G. "Jerry" Parker, Sr.
Interviewer: David McCally

You can view the entire interview about Jerry's life and career online. Excerpts from the interview follow:

"I started out as an educator, and I have always been an educator since. I started out teaching grade school children, high school children, and then I taught in the university [system] to the postgraduate [level]. I guided [students] in professional programs. Perhaps one of the most useful things I have ever done was my development of an understanding of the geology of the state of Florida, and particularly of the two big aquifers [Floridan and Biscayne], the water-bearing rock units that supply Florida with its water."

"The Floridan [Aquifer] extends into the coastal plain of Alabama, and there up into the coastal plain of South Carolina. The Biscayne Aquifer is what the people in southeastern Florida depend on as their sole water supply source. Those are things which I did in the course of my work. The welfare of the people of the state depended upon those studies."

"Water is life; without water, we have nothing. Without water, we die."

U.S. Geological Survey
Water Resources Division
Video History Project

March 17, 1989
Interviewee: Garald G. "Jerry" Parker, Sr.
Interviewer: Garald G. "Jerry" Parker, Jr.

Following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Garald G. Parker, Sr. by Dr. Garald G. Parker, Jr. (The full text is not available at this time.)

View text and hear audio excerpts from this interview by following the links below:

Other information about Dr. Parker:

Articles about Bernadette Parker:

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Last updated: 04 September, 2015 @ 02:11 PM (KP)