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Everett Parker Dies at 102

Everett C. Parker, founder and director of the United Church of Christ Office of Communications and a pioneer in civil rights and public interest activism, has died at the age of 102 according to various sources.

When Parker retired in 1983, then-Broadcasting magazine called Parker one of the most influential men in broadcasting, Public Knowledge pointed out in saluting the pioneering advocate for media diversity and employment.

In the 1960s, as the civil rights movement took hold, Parker put broadcasters feet to the fire, challenging the license renewal of WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., over its civil rights record, and by doing so establishing the right of citizens to do so, something the FCC had previously not recognized—WLBT's license was eventually revoked.

Parker and UCC were also instrumental in getting the FCC to adopt EEO rules.

"Everett Parker was more than a civil rights activist; he was a pioneer in activism," said Public Knowledge president Gene Kimmelman.

"Everett recognized the critical importance of broadcasting to shaping the struggle for equality. He literally invented the idea of media reform, demanding that the public have the right to a say in the management of the public airwaves. In the landmark case of United Church of Christ v. FCC, Everett forced the FCC to recognize that racist programming could not serve the public interest. Well beyond his formal retirement in 1983, Everett remained a leading voice for diversity and social justice in the media and in society.”

"Parker played a critical role in the development of public interest of American television," said the Benton Foundation. "His leadership led to the development of an influential media reform and citizen action movement in broadcasting; and his activism directed at improved broadcast employment prospects for women and minorities."

"“All of us at the Benton Foundation are saddened by the news of Rev Parker’s passing," said Benton Foundation executive director Adrianne B. Furniss. "His work inspires us, the public interest community, and all advocates for a better world. His mission, shared by the Benton Foundation, is to give help to people who are voiceless, so that they may be heard."

"Everett Parker was a special hero of mine," said former FCC commissioner Michael Copps, now special adviser to Common Cause. "I counted on his wisdom, his unique perspective, and his impassioned commitment to media justice and the public interest while I was at the FCC and after.  He made history in opening up the media, not just in the south, but across the land.  He kept up the fight for media that reflect the great diversity of America long after his historic victory on WLBT.  Our best memorial to this truly great American is to keep fighting for the principles he fought for and personified."

“It was with a heavy heart that I learned of the passing of Rev. Dr. Everett Parker this morning," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "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.” Wheeler last year delivered the annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications lecture in Washington on the issue of diversity.

To check out what Parker had to say about media diversity at the 75th anniversary of the FCC in 2009, click here.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.