Our culminating event for the 27th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium was a rousing celebration of the legacy of Dr. Joseph C. Parker Jr. at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on May 3.
Rev. Parker came of age in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights movement. For decades, he has been a pillar of Austin’s religious community with David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, but he has also been a longtime advocate for youth and the East Austin community. Austin news outlets profiled his journey from Alabama to Texas here and here. Here’s an excerpt from the Austin American-Statesman profile:
On Friday, Parker, a 1982 University of Texas Law School graduate who went on to become chief litigator for the State Bar of Texas, will receive the Heman Marion Sweatt Legacy Award at the UT symposium on civil rights. Sweatt was a plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case that in 1950 forced open the doors of the university’s School of Law to African-Americans. By state law, black students had been barred simply based on the color of their skin, until the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the admission of Sweatt, a black mail carrier from Houston.
Parker said he is humbled by the honor. “As a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, I am a beneficiary of his sacrifice,” he said.
The program included remarks by University of Texas at Austin president Bill Powers, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Dr. Gregory J. Vincent and the presentation of Rev. Parker’s award. Rev. Parker gave a moving speech dedicated to honoring his wife, J. LaVerne Morris, for keeping him alive after he had a heart transplant in January. You can view more photos from the event at our Flickr page.