Law School Bids Farewell to Judge Edward Parker (’55)
FEBRUARY 24, 2012—Edward James Parker (’55), one of the original six judges appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals when it was established in 1983, passed away Feb. 5, 2012, at age 84.
A Detroit native who would become known as a champion of the underdog, Parker left school in ninth grade to help support his family. He worked in automotive and other jobs until his enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps. After serving in World War II and the Korean war, he earned a high school equivalency and decided to go on to college. High test scores gained him admission to the University of Minnesota, and the GI Bill help him pay for his B.A. and law degrees.
Parker's legal career began in 1955 when he joined the office of Minnesota Attorney General Miles Lord (’48) as an assistant attorney general. In 1963, at age 36, Parker was appointed by Gov. Karl Rolvaag to the Minneapolis Municipal Court, the youngest judge ever appointed to the position. From there, he moved on to the Hennepin County District Court, but by 1974, with four children in college, he realized that a judge's salary was inadequate to meet his family's tuition costs. He went into private practice with Lindquist & Vennum, and in his nine years with the firm he established a reputation as a distinguished trial lawyer.
In November 1983 Parker was sworn in as a judge on the new Minnesota Court of Appeals. DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed all six judges on the court, but politics never entered into their rulings, Parker told a Minnesota Public Radio interviewer in 2003. "It's hard enough just to get it straight without trying to put a political spin on it," Parker said. "The challenge is getting it done and getting it straight, and the self-respect comes in getting it fairly and right."
Parker served on the Court of Appeals until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1997. When interviewed by the Star Tribune upon his stepping down, Parker said he had taken mediation classes and planned to work as a private mediator. He expected "trying to bring people together and get them to fashion an agreement" to be quite a change for him. "I'm so used to deciding cases," he said.
An innovative judge who played an important role in shaping Minnesota law, Parker told the reporter that in looking back on his career, he was glad he went into law rather than economics as he had once considered. "I can't tell you how interesting it's been," Parker said. "And I'd probably have been a lousy economist."
Parker is survived by his wife, Dorothy, who shared his passion for civil rights ever since their marriage in 1949; daughter Marian; and sons Jim, Daniel, Samuel, and Edward.