Frank Parker (1940-1997)

Staff

Vol. 19, No. 2, 1997 p. 31

Civil rights lawyer and voting rights advocate Frank R. Parker passed away on July 10, 1997, after suffering heart complications at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia. He was fifty-seven.

Parker worked for the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for twenty-four years, in Mississippi and in Washington, serving for more than a decade as director of its Voting Rights Project. He brought redistricting lawsuits against multi-member state legislative districts which diluted black voting strength and fought successfully to deny federal tax exemption to segregated white academies across the South.

After leaving the Lawyers' Committee in 1993, he joined the faculty of the District of Columbia School of Law and then became visiting professor at Washington and Lee School of Law in Lexington, Virginia.

Parker leaves a lasting impact on Southern politics. Veteran Mississippi journalist Bill Minor once wrote that "Frank Parker had more influence on the flow of the state's governmental history in the 1970s than any single public official or group of officials elected by the people of Mississippi."

His book about the transformation of Mississippi politics, Black Votes Count. Political Empowerment in Mississippi After 1965 (University of North Carolina Press, 1990) won numerous awards.

"Through decades of toil, hardship, and brilliant legal advocacy, Frank secured the opportunity for black Mississippians to elect the first African Americans since Reconstruction to serve in the state legislature and in Mississippi's congressional delegation," said Lawyers' Committee Executive Director Barbara Arnwine. "The legal strategies he pioneered and the many redistricting battles he fought made minority political participation a reality at all levels of government across the nation." The Lawyers' Committee plans a memorial service honoring him in mid-September in Washington, D.C.