BLACK VOTES COUNT -- Civil rights activist and lawyer Frank Ruff Parker III spent his career advocating for the rights of minorities to vote in and to win elections in Mississippi and other bastions of bigotry in the United States. His 1990 book Black Votes Count received many awards, including one from the American Bar Association. The book has been widely praised for chronicling the legal challenges needed to uphold the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Mississippi where it had become common to nullify black votes through at-large elections, racial gerrymandering, changing offices from elective to appointive, and unfairly revising the qualifications for candidates for public office. The work culminated in the 1986 election of Mike Espy, Mississippi's first black congressman since Reconstruction, in a district that 22 years earlier did not have one registered black voter.
Born in Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County, PA, the son of Frank R. and Marjorie (LaClair) Parker Jr., and grandson of Frank and Bessie (Hopwood) LaClair, he obtained his law degree at Harvard and went to work for the Office of General Counsel of the United States Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, DC. In 1968, at the height of civil unrest, deadly race riots and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he relocated to Mississippi. He practiced there for 13 years as a civil rights lawyer, handling many court cases to provide relief for black voters and candidates. In about 1981 he returned to Washington DC when named Director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He joined the Joint Center for Political Studies in 1992 and taught at the District of Columbia School of Law.
An aortic aneurysm suddenly ended his life at the age of 57 on July 10, 1997. Obituaries in the Washington Post and New York Times sang his praises, and his papers were deposited in the Washington and Lee University School of Law. He reposes in Hopwood Cemetery near Uniontown, Fayette County, PA, the fifth generation member of the family to be interred there, dating back to his great-great-great grandfather Henry Minerd (1856). More >>>