Rev. Dr. Everett Parker, Longtime United Church Of Christ Media Activist, Dies At 102
September 18, 2015 at 4:11 AM (PT)
The Rev. EVERETT C. PARKER, founder and longtime director of the UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST Office of Communication, passed away THURSDAY (9/17) at the age of 102 in WHITE PLAINS, NY.
PARKER, who headed the department from 1954 through 1983, took the UCC into activism in broadcast licensing, notably the license revocation case of WLBT-TV/JACKSON, MS and the application of EEO rules for broadcasting. His career started in radio production at NBC as Assistant Public Service Manager and Assistant War Program Manager in 1943-45; he later started the JOINT RELIGIOUS RADIO COMMITTEE and taught at YALE DIVINITY SCHOOL. After his retirement, PARKER continued to be active in FCC proceedings and served as an adjunct professor at FORDHAM UNIVERSITY.
"EVERETT PARKER is one of those heroes of mine whose dedication to justice both inspired and informed me," said UCC General Minister and President Rev. JOHN C. DORHAUER. "Unlike others for whom strong rhetoric was enough, EVERETT always looked for action that mattered. He was one who got things done – and his commitment to the groundbreaking work on ensuring that every marginal voice would have access to the airwaves not only mattered, not only matters still, but was something almost every other justice advocate missed. He didn't. We mourn his passing at the same time we celebrate his legacy. His mark on the denomination and our country is indelible. It will stand the test of time."
FCC Chairman TOM WHEELER said, “It was with a heavy heart that I learned of the passing of Rev. Dr. EVERETT PARKER this morning. Dr. PARKER was instrumental in ensuring the public could have its voice heard at the FCC, and perhaps no single person has had a greater impact on this country's communications landscape. I was privileged to know Dr. PARKER and see his work close up.”
FCC Commissioner MIGNON'CLYBURN said on THURSDAY, "I just got word that a civil rights giant, Rev. Dr. EVERETT PARKER, passed away this morning. Considered by many a founder of the 'Media Justice Movement,” he established the UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST Office of Communication, 'a media reform and accountability ministry with a civil rights agenda.' He was committed to improving the coverage and employment of women and people of color in broadcasting and other media before it was 'cool.' In 1964, along with the NAACP and at the urging of Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Dr. PARKER petitioned the FCC to deny the license renewal of WLBT, a local broadcast station in JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI with ties to the White Citizens Council. The station openly used its platform to oppose the integration of the local universities. While the FCC denied their petition, the Supreme Court – in 1969 – ruled that the broadcast industry was required to serve the public interest and the station was ultimately stripped of its license. This case was foundational in determining that there is a recognized connection between the use of publicly-owned airwaves by private companies and a duty to serve the public.
"I met this incredible man around the time of his 97th birthday. He was engaged, supportive and sage (forecasting the day when there would be a female chair of the FCC). I never forgot those words and sent him a note thanking him for voicing that sentiment during my term as Acting Chair. As an FCC Commissioner completing her sixth year of federal service, I will never turn my back on the important legacy and work of EVERETT PARKER. Too many take for granted the fruits of his labor. I never will.
"Well done. Rest in Peace."