Supreme Court nominee Parker defends links to Confederate causes
10/18/2004, 12:31 p.m. CT
The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Republican Supreme Court candidate Tom Parker said there was nothing wrong with him distributing rebel flags at the funeral of a Confederate widow or associating with people linked to Old South groupsResponding to claims first published by the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which linked Parker to white extremist organizations, Parker said he "must be doing the right things" if he is coming under attack from the organization.
Parker is seeking a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court against Democrat Robert Smith, a Mobile attorney.
The law center’s magazine published a photograph of Parker clutching a handful of small Confederate battle flags, with one stuck in his breast pocket. In the photo, Parker is standing between two men that editor Mark Potok said are leaders of hate groups.
Potok identified one man with Parker as Leonard Wilson, "a board member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens." The other man shown with Parker is Mike Whorton, a leader with the League of the South, which advocates the secession of Southern states.
Parker, in an interview with The Birmingham News, said the law center is "the most liberal, politically correct law firm in the country and they have fought virtually every attempt in our state to acknowledge God, who is the source of our rights."
Parker is a one-time spokesman for ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore.
Parker said he passed out the Confederate flags at the funeral in Elba of Alberta Stewart Martin, who died May 31 at age 97 and was the widow of a Confederate veteran. In July, he said, he attended a party in Selma commemorating the birthday of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan.
Parker said he was invited to speak at the birthday party for Forrest, which was held at the home of Pat and Butch Godwin, who tried unsuccessfully to display a bust of Forrest on public property in Selma.
Parker said he did not consider his actions in either event inappropriate for a judicial candidate.
"If there is any more appropriate place for the display of the Confederate battle flag than at the funeral for the last Confederate widow, I would like for someone to explain it to me," Parker said. "Political correctness should not cause people to dishonor our history."
Parker said he met Wilson and Whorton at the widow’s funeral but is not a member of either of their groups. He said he knows Wilson through the Alabama Sons of Confederate Veterans; Wilson is the division commander. Parker said Wilson and Whorton recognize and honor Southern heritage "just as the Tourism Department of the city of Montgomery recognizes both the Civil War and civil rights as part of the city’s heritage."