Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker Revels in "Old South" Confederate Traditions
Updated: Aug 17
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on June 2, 2023
An Editorial Opinion
My mother, Lillian Bernice Varnado Watkins, said, “when people show you who they are, believe them.” She also told me that “birds of a feather flock together.”
I also believe a picture is worth a thousand words.
This brings me to Tom Parker, the 71-year-old Chief Justice of the all-white Alabama Supreme Court in a state that is 26% black.
At a time when courageous leaders in the South and around the nation were removing public displays of statues, flags, and other memorabilia that enshrined slavery-era Southern politicians and Confederate soldiers, Tom Parker was busy distributing miniature Confederate flags to those who gathered at the funeral of the last Confederate widow in Alabama.
The photo above depicts a smiling Tom Parker relishing his Confederate flags at the funeral. In addition to the Confederate flags Parker is holding in his right hand, he also proudly displays a Confederate in his suit coat pocket. Parker appears to be mighty happy with his fist full of Confederate flags at this event.
In the photo, Parker is sandwiched between two white supremacists. One of them is Leonard "Flagpole" Wilson, a board member of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Wilson earned his nickname in 1956 when he was a key figure in violent demonstrations against the admission of Autherine Lucy as the first black student at the University of Alabama. Leading chants of “Keep ’Bama white!” while swinging chimpanzee-like from a flagpole, Wilson led riotous UA students through two terrifying nights of racial unrest.
Confederate flags flapped near Wilson in the wind as he regaled the mob with racist jokes, exalted white civilization, and urged student resistance to Autherine Lucy's admission.
The mob responded by chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Autherine's got to go!" An intoxicated fellow UA student jumped up and down on a car, while its frightened black occupants cowered inside.
The mob pelted Autherine Lucy and university officials with eggs and descended on the president's mansion to demand her removal. The University responded by subsequently expelling Lucy for "causing a riot."
Wilson’s segregationist activies didn’t stop there. He later became a prominent member of the White Citizens Councils of the 1960s.
On the other side of Tom Parker is Mike Whorton, who was reportedly a leader with the League of the South. Whorton is described in a 2004 WSFA 12 News article as the state leader of the League of the South, a group the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a white supremacist hate group. Whorton has denied membership in this group.
Tom Parker has also been criticized for attending a party in Selma, Alabama commemorating the birthday of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan. The party was hosted at "Fort Dixie" by Pat and Butch Godwin, operators of Friends of Forrest, Inc. The couple is also reported to be involved with the League of the South.
Parker told WSFA 12's Eileen Jones, "I know these guys [Leonard Wilson and Mike Whorton] and I have never heard anything like [expressions of racial hatred] come out of their mouth."
After WSFA busted Tom Parker by showing him the photo of him dripping with Confederate flags, Parker admitted distributing the miniature Confederate flags at the funeral. However, Parker claimed that his act of distributing the flags was a manifestation of his appreciation of southern heritage, and not racism.
Tom Parker claims he has always appreciated Alabama's dual heritage, the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. Parker also claims that he helped with race relations from the time he was student body President at Lanier High School up until the date of the WSFA article (October 14, 2004), when Parker says he organized a group of black and white ministers to improve their working relationship.
However, Parker’s actions and judicial rulings as a Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court have aggressively undermined each constitutional and civil right that blacks enjoy under the First, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Alabama Constitution (as amended), and Alabama state statutes.
Parker's judicial rulings against black criminal defendants, including juveniles, are similarly hostile and awful.
What is more, Tom Parker has not lifted a finger to address or change the all-white makeup of the Alabama Supreme Court. Today, the state's Supreme Court looks just like Parker's Confederate heroes envisioned it would look if their agenda of white supremacy prevailed.
Tom Parker, a Montgomery native, is also a staunch opponent of equal rights for women and LGBTQIA Americans.
Tom Parker is the elected Chief Justice of the all-white Alabama Supreme Court. It is fantasy to belief that any black litigant in Tom Parker’s Supreme Court will get a fair hearing from this Old South, “died in the wool,” Confederate patriot who hides his engrained “southern heritage” beliefs and ideals underneath his black rob.
Tom Parker’s supporters call him a "conservative." I see him as an "Old School" racist.