Is Republican Tom Parker the Man to Serve on Alabama's Supreme Court?
This story in the Birmingham News raises legitimate questions about whether Republican Tom Parker has the judicial temperament requisite for a position on the Alabama Supreme Court.
Two things that should not be the focus of concern are that Judge Parker displayed and handed out Confederate battle flags at the funeral of a Confederate veteran's widow and that he attended a ceremony honoring CSA General Nathan Bedford Forrest. These activities are defensible in that they were intended to honor Southern heritage and the sacrifices of Confederate veterans and their families. What is troubling is Parker's seeming reluctance to dissociate himself with the views of two extremist groups - the Council of Conservative Citizens and the League of the South.
The Southern Poverty Law Center's "Intelligence Report" on Parker is here. The SPLC classifies the CCC and the League of the South as "hate groups." Given the SPLC's tendency to throw out this epithet whenever they encounter effective opposition to their own leftist ideology, their report should be taken with a grain of salt. However, the extremism of the CCC and the League of the South is undeniable. (You can get the URL's of their websites via Google.com if you want to see for yourself.) It is hard to see how a judge who embraces their views could merit confidence in his ability to rule impartially. Judge Parker needs to clarify his association with these two groups and the extent to which he shares their views on culture and politics. In the meantime, Republicans in Alabama should begin to consider alternate choices to serve on the Alabama Supreme Court.
Here's the full text of the Birmingham News article:
Parker shown with hate group leaders
Saturday, October 16, 2004
STAN BAILEY News staff writer
Republican Supreme Court candidate Tom Parker passed out Confederate battle flags at the funeral of a Confederate veteran's widow in June and spoke at a birthday party in July for the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Parker confirmed Friday.
The activities are highlighted in the current issue of Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, which published an article about Parker along with a photo of a smiling Parker holding several small Confederate flags, with one stuck in his breast pocket. In the photo, Parker is standing between two men that editor Mark Potok said are leaders of organizations the SPLC classifies as hate groups.
Potok identified the man on Parker's right as Leonard Wilson, "a board member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens," and on Parker's left as Mike Whorton, a leader with the League of the South, "a neo-secessionist hate group."
Parker said Friday, "If Southern Poverty Law Center is attacking me, I must be doing the right things. They are the most liberal, politically correct law firm in the country and they have fought virtually every attempt in our state to acknowledge God, who is the source of our rights."
Parker said he passed out small Confederate flags at the funeral in Elba of Alberta Stewart Martin, who died May 31 at age 97 and was believed to be the last widow of a Confederate veteran. In July, he said, he attended a party in Selma commemorating the birthday of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the KKK.
Parker said he didn't consider his actions in either event inappropriate for a judicial candidate.
"If there is any more appropriate place for the display of the Confederate battle flag than at the funeral for the last Confederate widow, I would like for someone to explain it to me," Parker said. "Political correctness should not cause people to dishonor our history."
Parker said he met Wilson and Whorton at the widow's funeral but is not a member of either of their groups. He said he knows Wilson in connection with the Alabama Sons of Confederate Veterans; Wilson is the division commander. The SPLC does not list that group as a hate group.
Parker said Wilson and Whorton recognize and honor Southern heritage "just as the Tourism Department of the city of Montgomery recognizes both the Civil War and civil rights as part of the city's heritage.
Parker said he was invited to speak at the birthday party for Forrest, which was held at the home of Pat and Butch Godwin, who tried unsuccessfully to display a bust of Forrest on public property in Selma. The SPLC article said Pat Godwin now is fighting to block acknowledgment on the Capitol grounds of the Selma-to-Montgomery march.
Parker said Forrest, a famous Confederate general, founded the Klan but later tried to deactivate it because he was "shocked" by it.