Evelyn Ware Perkins was the first elected female member of the LASERS Board of Trustees. Known as “Miss Perkins,” she received 4,000 votes in December 1947 from retirement system members and began a two-year term on the Board. At her very first Board of Trustees meeting, she suggested that a handbook for employees be prepared for distribution covering important points in the law that would be of interest to them. In essence, this was a prototype for the first Member’s Guide to Retirement.
Miss Perkins’ concern for employees developed in the progression of her career. In 1937, she became the first personnel director for the Louisiana State Department of Public Welfare and served in that capacity for 27 years.
Miss Perkins was a leader within her agency, but also extremely active in overall state government. In 1958, she was the recipient of the Charles E. Dunbar Career Service Award. She also headed the state offices fund drive committee of the Red Cross and served on the Louisiana Personnel Council Board. She often presented at meetings to share her extensive knowledge of management and personnel practices to assist other state agencies.
Prior to her position with the Welfare Department, Miss Perkins was an assistant in research and statistics with the American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) Company in New York, which was the largest corporation in the world for much of the 20th century. In her position, she worked with federal authorities to establish the first minimum standards for the department whose employees then numbered about 1,000. She proudly proclaimed that since that time, no one had been employed that did not meet the minimum standards.
Miss Perkins hailed from a family that valued education. She was born in Mississippi in 1899, and came to Baton Rouge with her family at the age of 16. Her father, William Robert Perkins, was a chemist, agronomist, and professor at Mississippi State College (now known as Mississippi State University) and also in South Carolina. He relocated to LSU in 1915 to be an extension forage crop specialist. Several years later, he became director of the Agricultural Extension Service.
Miss Perkins enrolled at LSU in a commerce curriculum where she was active in the Epsilon Chapter of Kappa Delta, the Y.W.C.A. Cabinet, and the Coed Club. At that time, LSU was known as the “Old War Skule” and was located in downtown Baton Rouge. The Pentagon Barracks, still standing today, housed the cadets and was part of the campus.
Miss Perkins graduated in 1919 with a B.A. from the College
of Arts and Sciences. Incidentally, that was one of two years
that The Gumbo was not published due to World War I. Shortly after graduation, she accepted a teaching position in Lake Charles, but returned to Baton Rouge in 1920.
Miss Perkins continued her education by completing graduate work in psychology and mathematics at the universities of Alabama, California, and Louisiana.
Historic records from 1930 indicate that Miss Perkins lived with her parents in Poplarville, and taught in the public school system in Mississippi. Her father had returned to Mississippi State in 1928 and several years later became the director of the state’s agricultural experiment station.
All her life, Miss Perkins was involved in civic and professional organizations such as the Business and Professional Women’s Club, Altrusa, YWCA, Baton Rouge Foundation for Historical Louisiana, the Republican Club, First Presbyterian Church, and the Study Club. She was well-known in social circles in Baton Rouge.
In 1971, Miss Perkins was tragically killed at the age of 71. According to The Advocate, she was struck by a vehicle on Government Street after leaving Calandro’s with a bag of groceries in her arms.
Evelyn Ware Perkins set the tone for future female Trustees on the LASERS Board. Her professionalism, intelligence, and dedication to the betterment of state employees are seen in our women leaders from the 1940s through today.