NEW ORLEANS — Nancy Parker’s 30-year career in broadcast journalism, including the past 25 at WVUE Fox 8, earned her some of the industry’s top awards and a reputation as a journalist who covered hard news but with tremendous heart.
Parker died in a small plane crash Friday near New Orleans Lakefront Airport, WVUE reported. It was no surprise to many colleagues that the story she was working on when it happened was about a pilot whose work including helping at-risk youth.
Her love for children began at home, as the mother of three, and expanded to her work as author of three children’s books.
Parker’s uplifting, positive stories and energetic spirit enlivened many of her stories and on-air reports, although her job also put her on the anchor desk and on the scene of tragedies and breaking news.
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She joined the staff of Fox 8 in 1996 as weekend anchor. She then anchored evening newscasts alongside John Snell for more than a decade before the two moved to anchoring morning newscasts in 2016.
Parker came to New Orleans from Baton Rouge, where she anchored at WAFB-TV for more than six years.
A native of Opelika, Alabama and the child of two educators, her lifelong interest in journalism began in high school. As a senior, she began anchoring news reports in evening drive at a news radio station. As her biography on Fox 8’s web site says, she “juggled school events while covering news in the evening with a tape recorder and a dream.”
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She later graduated with honors from the University of Alabama with a degree in journalism and interned in the office of Alabama Congressman Bill Nichols after college. Her first job in television was in Columbus, Georgia, followed by a stint in Montgomery, Alabama.
It was in Alabama that she met her husband, Glynn Boyd, who now works as a public information officer for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office but spent many years as a TV reporter including here in New Orleans.
According to a Times-Picayune profile, the two met while covering a political race in Tuskegee, Alabama. "It was Valentine’s Day," Parker told the newspaper in 2005.
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"I remember noticing her when I walked in," Boyd said at the time. "I noticed she was really aggressive and asking all of the smart questions." "He must had been intrigued," Parker said, "because somehow he got my number and started calling me. He just kept bothering me, and suddenly I started kind of liking it."
The two began a romance while their careers took them elsewhere, though they reunited in Baton Rouge in 1990. They married in 1993. “He (Boyd) stole my heart, just like New Orleans did,” she wrote last year. The children’s books Parker wrote also reflected the city she grew to love. They included the Crescent City-themed bird characters “Yat” and “Dat.”
Parker was very active in the community as an emcee, speaker and active supporter of dozens of non-profits and community groups.
Her coverage of two religious stories – the canonization of St. Katherine Drexel at the Vatican and the death of Archbishop Philip Hannan – stood out in her Fox 8 career. Her documentary on Hannan’s relationships with President John F. Kennedy and his family won her an Emmy.
According to Fox 8, it was one of five Emmy awards she won. Others were for the story of an ex-convict whose artistic skills landed his art work in the Smithsonian. Another Emmy-winning documentary covered the stories of descendants of slaves buying the plantation that their ancestors built in St. John Parish.
She was nominated for seven other Emmys, among many other local and regional awards.
Her first job in television was in Columbus, Georgia, followed by a stint in Montgomery, Alabama.
In a 2018 story to commemorate the city’s tricentennial, Parker wrote about her first trip to the city for a Key Club convention in the 1970s.
“When I was 11 years old, I didn't know much about New Orleans. I knew it was an old and interesting place on the Mississippi River, where the dead are mostly buried above ground. I knew simple facts about this wonderfully complicated place. I learned that New Orleans is an undulating, pulsating, shock treatment that wakes you up and slows you down,” she wrote.
“A little girl from Opelika, Alabama, swept up in southern accents that didn't sound the same as they did at home. Beautiful scenery wrapped around me, and random sounds of horns and drums seemed to come out of nowhere. Smells of old wood, boiled seafood and pralines swirled together in the air. The chocolate Mississippi River was frothy as the Natchez churned through it.”
“Something about this place stole my little girl heart and refused to let it go. The spirits cast a spell on me, bringing tears to my eyes when we packed the car and headed out. New Orleans was like a charming friend I thought I'd never see again. I was wrong.”
“I'm living out my love affair with New Orleans and sharing her magic with my three children who were all born here. I'm a part of the tapestry now that makes such a lovely quilt. There is a story around ever amazing corner, under every bridge, and in every tall building. There is life in every old brick. Before you know it, you are changed, with the beat of a second line parade, or the hypnotic scent of Magnolia and sweet olive that is like a Sazerac cocktail in the air.”
“Is she perfect? No. But her flaws can be covered by the smiles she brings. Through fires, floods and hurricanes the spirit never dies. It makes her stronger. She's made me better.”