Thursday, November 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Veteran's Day Edition

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

Private Fred Parks. December 1942
     Born in 1906 in Oklahoma (then called Indian Territory) to Nora Soden and John Parks, Fred Parks grew up poor. His father had abandoned the family shortly after his birth, and Fred worked several odd jobs as a teen to help his mother make ends meet. He first enrolled at South Texas School of Law in 1927, but was unprepared for law school. He dropped out and enrolled in Rice Institute. When the Great Depression began, he could no longer afford to go to school. He worked for the next four years and in 1934, he re-enrolled in South Texas School of Law. He worked several jobs while attending law school and at times was homeless and would sleep in the city cemetery.  Upon graduation in 1937, he began working for the Houston law firm of Burris & Benton. He became active in the local and state bar, serving first as the Director for the Houston Junior Bar Association, and then the President of the HJBA.
     Once World War II began, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and was assigned to the Judge Advocate’s Office at Brooks Field in San Antonio. He applied for, and was accepted to, Officer Candidate School, and upon completion was sent to Italy as part of the 464th Bomb Group, which was the Intelligence wing of the 15th Army Air Force, in 1943. Captain Fred Parks was released from active duty in 1946. He returned to Houston with the ETO ribbon with six stars and the Bronze Star. He opened his own law office specializing in civil law, including personal injury.
     Fred Parks remained active in the local and state legal community, serving as Director and Vice-President of the Texas Bar Association.  He wrote and spoke extensively on the law throughout his career, and in the 1950s he also taught law at South Texas College of Law. He was involved with some famous cases, including an inheritance dispute over the Galveston Moody family money and actress Hedy Lamarr’s divorce from Houston millionaire Howard Lee. He wound down his law practice in the 1980s, after 50 years of practice.
     Fred Parks is the largest benefactor in the history of South Texas College of Law. He passed away October 18, 2001, at age 95, one month before the dedication of the Fred Parks Law Library, which featured his friend President George Bush. Mr. Parks said that he believed in the American Dream because he experienced it. Born poor, he earned his success through hard work and determination. A member of a generation “hardened by the Great Depression and tempered by war”, his fortitude and spirit are an inspiration.
     This Veterans Day we thank Mr. Parks and all those who have served.