Barrington Parker and Rebecca Tinio

Recorded March 4, 2008 Archived March 4, 2008 41:38 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: LMN000117


Judge Barrington Parker talks with his law clerk Rebecca Tinio about growing up in the segregated South, and seeing up close some of the great civil rights figures of the era.

Subject Log / Time Code

Barrington talks about Dunbar High School, a Washington DC area school that his parents attended, that was the only mixed race high school in DC for many years.
Barrington remembers the first time his mother took him to an integrated movie theater in DC; he remembers that the movie starred Marlon Brando, and was not very good.
Barrington talks about summer camp, playing baseball.


  • Barrington Parker
  • Rebecca Tinio

Recording Location

StoryCorps Lower Manhattan Booth


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00:06 On my name is Rebecca tinio. I'm 28 years old. Today's date is March, 4th 2008. We are in the storycorps booth in lower Manhattan, and Foley square and I am going to be interviewing Jamie Parker. Who is my boss.

00:28 My name is Berrington Parker. I'm 64. Today. Is March 4th 2008. We are at the storycorps booth the Foley Square in lower Manhattan and Rebecca was my law Clerk.

00:50 Judge program. One of the reasons that I wanted to interview you was for so. Cuz I really think this is a great project and also because you have told us some really interesting stories about growing up in DC that your father and your grandparents a little bit and have scattered stories about some of the really amazing people. You knew when you were growing up who are associated with civil rights movement, with some of the really amazing cases that we've all been about in law school and having part of various events. And that was, I think one thing that I definitely wanted to find out some more about because I don't know anyone else was involved in that. So if it's okay, I thought I would just ask you some questions about that. Be okay at church. Where were you born in Washington DC? In 1944?

01:46 All my mother was Marjorie. Holloman Parker. My father was Berrington D, Parker. I'm Junior.

01:54 And what's your parents do? My mother was a college. Professor? She she

02:02 We sent you a lifelong resident of Washington and she moved to Washington right around World War 1 in 1915. I think it was from North Carolina.

02:18 To my father.

02:21 Was a year older and was born near Washington across the Potomac River in a farming Community called Rosslyn Virginia. And now it's an area of high-rises just across the Key Bridge in in Washington. My maternal grandfather was a minister in North Carolina and my maternal grandmother was a

02:57 Homemaker.

02:59 Mike, my grandfather was born in.

03:05 Virginia near Charlottesville.

03:08 And went to college at.

03:12 Virginia Union University in Richmond English class of like 1907.

03:19 And was a Classics. Teacher Latin teacher in a school. I believe. Cold water is normal School in South Carolina near a place called Ahoskie, North Carolina. And there he met my grandmother. My grandmother was teaching there. Also. The origin of schools was not Tom.

03:44 Public education for African Americans ended 8th grade. And so if you wanted further education, you had to pay for it yourself there. So there was a series of

04:03 Normal. Normal schools are essentially kind of private high schools people who could afford to to go to used, my mother had.

04:20 Four siblings, so she was one of a five and my my grandparents couldn't afford private education for all of them. So in 1916, I believe it was they moved to Washington DC, where my grandfather became the minister of Second, Baptist Church in Washington. Second Baptist was the oldest second. Oldest African-American church in Washington can a very good public schools and then they University there and then public College, Mana Teacher's College.

05:08 So essentially,

05:12 Yeah, there's really some access to tree.

05:16 Secondary and higher education until really through through college. And if you were content to be a teacher,

05:26 My father is,

05:30 Father, my grandma voucher know, grandfather, went to Howard and was

05:38 And then worked in the. Who's the Republican Patriots job?

05:44 In Washington, he was one of the black communities in the greater. What's now greater Washington was Georgetown?

05:59 And he was the postmaster Georgetown and he and he was he went to he worked at the he was supposed match of a little post office in in.

06:22 All Georgetown and then went to law school.

06:26 Howard. And then public.

06:31 No, it's probably Howard University's gets lot of public funds, but it's

06:42 And,

06:45 My foot. My mother is my father's mother.

06:49 Was a music teacher. She went to Oberlin.

06:54 And they were classmates. My parents are classmates through.

07:05 Through High School.

07:07 The.

07:10 High School. Everyone went to the Martian was Dunbar High School, which was an exceptionally. It was an exceptionally good school. That was the one and only separate, but equal school and the United States of America.

07:24 So I take my in my parents, High School, graduating class 1932 like, over 90% of the people, went to college. They were classmates, Dunbar High School class of 1932, and they had many lifelong friends in Washington. Who were

07:50 Classmates in one of the last social functions are remember they went to a, I think it was.

07:57 60th anniversary. 03. Union of their Dunbar High School class. My mother, then went to the local teachers college, minor Teacher's College.

08:08 Then she went to graduate school at the University of Chicago and got a PhD in 1951.

08:16 And my father,

08:18 Went to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and graduated in 1936. And then he went to

08:28 University of Pennsylvania planning to do a degree in economics.

08:34 And didn't like Penny thought the the racial situation there was very chilly. So he taught there for a year and then he

08:46 Went down to New Orleans and taught at a predominantly black college called Dillard University took there for a couple of years and they worked in the government during the war for the war Manpower board. He was stationed in Puerto Rico, trying to

09:07 Recruit.

09:09 Workers for

09:11 War factories in the States during the war. Then right at 2 at the end of the war, he went to Chicago University, go to initially planning to finish up for degree in economics, but then transferred to the law school.

09:28 That when your mother was there as well, they overlap for a couple of years and then my brother, and I lived with my grandmother, my grandparents doing it.

09:40 Maternal. Grandparents

09:43 Not in Chicago, so when your parents are in Chicago,

09:53 So your parents did they get married pretty soon after high school then they got married.

10:02 The day the Germans invaded Poland.

10:07 How old is September 1st 1939?

10:11 How old are your parents?

10:22 5 years before you were born.

10:30 Mid-twenties.

10:35 How many African Americans were getting pasties at University of Chicago at that time?

10:43 I think her for my mother. There was one.

10:46 Man, or woman who done it more or less receptive to having black students with Chicago. So you didn't really want to go to Harvard or Yale or pin or a place like that Prince. And Chris was still segregated Prince and didn't desegregate until the late 40s. Your dad have any stories about like why he didn't feel like you pain was the best place for him. Or does he just speak bad in general terms sweetheart. I just spoke about in general terms in the teachers wouldn't call any of their chili atmosphere was chilly.

11:30 But technically, it was integrated.

11:33 One of his friends. There was my

11:38 Father-in-law.

11:40 Who was the time? The only black at Wharton?

11:45 The wind business school, correct, and he had similar experiences. I never talk to him about.

11:57 Clear. He didn't want to talk about it. Talk about it. If I ask.

12:03 So very fond memories of Chicago. There was a professional students all kind of live together in a rooming house. Over the South Side, Chicago had a very robust black community, a lot of interesting people through a lot of stuff to do. It was a friends from close friends from Chicago.

12:32 Putting the.

12:34 I never got my emails. Me calls me. Everyday Gordon Davis.

12:38 Who's a great pal of mine's. Father was on The Faculty Allison. Davis, a very prominent.

12:46 Sociologist. Social historian. They were all real good friends. Are you and your brother? When they went off to go to University of Chicago?

12:59 We were young, but I can't tell you the precise dates because I just don't care where you at. We were free of them. We had a grand, we live with the grandparents. That's a lot nicer than my parents on the picture.

13:27 Went to school and then we played.

13:31 I don't recall.

13:33 Were there fun things that your grandparents would take you to do in DC's anything in particular? You remember from when you were a kid that you like to do in the city?

13:41 Not from that page now.

13:46 Pictures of Museum.

13:50 We should go to the zoo all the time. You go to the Museum's all the time, but I can't recall it. We were actually come. I can't recall. The logistical Arrangements of getting there.

14:02 What was your maternal grandmother like?

14:09 She was, she was very maternal. We lived, she had, she had a big row house down at New Jersey, Avenue, P Street. And

14:20 I had two on to live, not very far and they had children. So we had cousins who were all roughly the same age and we would congregate there after school or parent. Although they all taught school. Uncle was when I had an uncle. Who is this also school teacher. Another Uncle who was a policeman and we would go to my grandmother's after work and she would fix dinner for everybody. And then the parents would come by after work and pick us up. Take us home.

14:50 So I'm very fond memories of growing up in the segregated, South Rebecca.

15:01 Don't you cook tender for this big happily. Joyfully for this crowd of people every day when I do, see, the segregated until the early 50s. What do you remember at your grandparents, your parents talking to you, about the, what that meant. Did you have an idea of what that meant when you were that young, or how did that affect your life?

15:42 Well, you have to remember Rebecca. Things were different in those days when you didn't hit it, sound like New York in 2007 and you didn't go out to dinner a hole and you weren't. I mean, you weren't at the theater, very much. You know, there's a local movie with go to on Saturdays, but you were acting strange your own neighborhood in your church was a part of it.

16:14 And then the area that you lived in was somewhat circumscribe, so you didn't really

16:27 You didn't Venture in a down on the F Street or over in the Connecticut Avenue very much. We just no reason to go there and you didn't do it.

16:37 See you never really ventured much into the non black neighborhoods.

16:45 Memories, when the public accommodations opened up?

16:52 78 years old.

16:54 What are the public accommodations?

16:57 Restaurants theaters.

17:01 Movies.

17:03 I remember you telling us a story about going to the movies with your mom and was that when they had first open up the movies and she wants you to go membrane that correctly. That story.

17:16 This is the theaters in desegregated and she wanted to take care of me and my brother one Sunday. And so, we have to give it was a one of these, unbearably hot Washington Summers. We have told me of the trip across town to. I believe it was the DuPont Theater, which are memory serves me. May still be open. It's just, it was just south of Dupont Circle in Columbus, on Connecticut Avenue, and it was some just awful movie. I can't remember. My memory serves me correctly. It was Marlon Brando playing Julius, Caesar, and Brutus is excruciating.

17:58 All afternoon and we were missing a baseball game. We all want to listen to on the radio, the Dodgers were playing.

18:06 Brooklyn Dodgers, we were two huge. Brooklyn Dodger fans. We listen to the month. The station called wwva, from Wheeling, West Virginia.

18:22 Quentin will Quentin the Dodgers were the first baseball team to have. He grow players. They integrated. They hired this guy named Jackie Robinson and we all rooted for Jackie Robinson.

18:38 And then they had Dawn Newcomb and Pee Wee, Reese, and

18:43 Duke Snider.

18:45 Remember anything more about the movie like, no, I blocked out of her story explained you the significance of it or the significance. And we all knew the time.

19:03 I mean, without ever having an email without having any explicit discussion. I would we knew that the, the desegregation of Washington of a public combination Washington was a was a important event. You remember there being turbulence about it in the City Planning Commission is Monday. They just passed some ordinance, requiring all the public accommodations to admit everyone.

19:36 And this was memories like 5253 with pre Brown versus Board of Education, as a restaurant at Union Station. That was integrated. There was a restaurant at the cafeteria at the

19:56 What was in the melon gallery. Now? It's the National Gallery that was integrated. And I think the cafeteria had the labor Department's in a grade. And that's about it. Did you have any particular feelings, even though you were just a kid about your feelings? About this idea? That now, the city was integrated, you can go anywhere.

20:18 No.

20:20 I think it's interesting that, you know, it didn't really affect your daily life when you're growing up. But yet you really excited about it because if you did,

20:31 I was excited about what happened to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

20:38 Free with dog.

20:44 Listen to the World Series were in Elementary School Monroe, Elementary School. And the teacher would have a just a chair sitting up in front of the room with the small radio and we would listen at the end of the day, listening to the World Series.

20:59 And is your teacher. Also, I mean, if you were all really happy to listen to them because of the fact that they were the first human in grade, and

21:07 Well, that was

21:09 They were, they were our team. We were Dodger fans and it was a nobody like the uniforms would like the the whole Gestalt me like the players. We didn't like the Yankees.

21:22 As in the days, Those Were the Days lyrics.

21:36 Play Biggie Smalls. You can go to.

21:39 We go to camp and play baseball. We would go to a camp called. This isn't be more interesting than that. Then the answer to the question you just asked.

21:50 So awesome, so

21:57 My parents had to cast around the stuff for us to do in the summer. So they found this camp in Halifax, Massachusetts. It was called campus and McQueen, and it was a Boston, YMCA Camp.

22:10 And,

22:13 They must have been about a dozen of us from Washington DC who went up there.

22:21 African American kids in the camp was it was part Italian part Jewish couple of wasps here in the air and it was supposed it was suggested. It was a very well-run, fun camp and so we would drive up.

22:38 I don't know. Cool live in New York so we could stop over New York on the way up and then go to this camp in.

22:48 Halifax, Massachusetts. And we saw a lot of this is from all through the 50s.

22:55 And we saw, I saw a few friends from from the can and Pals from Washington. We went up my brother of my cousins.

23:07 Several other people and after I we would just play baseball, not they, they try to make us two other activities, like arts and crafts and swim every day and volleyball and archery and so forth. All he wanted to do was play baseball.

23:27 And,

23:29 After about five years than the director of the camps in these nice lettuce. 20, I think, my my mother and maybe an aunt, I forget exactly what the details were. But the gist of the letter was and it's nice to have all you wonderful people from Washington. But could you include some of the other people of your activities and not all the time? So we can't director, Warren. Shumway was his name include the Washington parents.

24:13 And ask them to on please encourage their kids to be more inclusive.

24:22 Run again, but it was a really good time.

24:26 So I guess I should have in the fifties now and for me and my colleagues who work with you, this is particularly interesting time because of all the cases 87th in cases and civil rights cases are being brought and your dad being a lawyer and you guys living in DC, where your parents friends with some of the people who are involved in, living in these cases and lawyers who were involved in the brown. Litigation free samples included. Robert. Carter who is Judge across the stuff. You should walk away from 500 Pearl Street.

25:06 My father was the valedictorian of the class in Lincoln University in 1936. And Carter was a valedictorian 1937.

25:16 And of course, he wrote the merits briefed and argued Brown School Board. Great friend of ours was a fella named Jim neighbor. Neighborhood was the

25:27 Later became Dean president of Howard, but it was.

25:32 Faculty member at Howard and

25:38 Working Brown.

25:42 The other.

25:45 Washingtonian with Spotswood Robinson, who was actually legal defense fund lawyer in Virginia. He started off in Richmond and then moved up to Washington in the sixties, but he or he and Carter did the Prince Edward County School case, which is one of the brown cases and

26:07 See you crystal lived in Washington and then later went on to the DC circuit and

26:18 Who was repair time. Chief judge of the DC circuit?

26:22 And he was associated with legal defense, from boydton, Virginia.

26:30 True member like serving these men when you were a kid. Like, how did it when I was young? I mean, I do, you know, if I was just ten years old at the brown to bed late, and later in life, later in life, these days for me. The number of these people became very close, personal friends. My father got appointed federal judge in 1970. And so, he was in the same courthouse for 30 years with spots with Robinson's liver, close friends, and

26:58 Call Robert Carter and I were colleagues and neighborhood. And his son rule will be no family, neighbors, and family friends for many years. And Jack Greenberg was spent a dear friend for many years.

27:15 At what point Did you sort of understand like the work that they have been doing?

27:21 I knew it all along and I knew we knew.

27:27 What a, what a watershed decision Brown was. And then there was all the Fallout from Brown that they discontinued to go to the bank at 1. Once I started to gain. You know, what, some of age were getting kind of political Consciousness, The Fallout from Brown was,

27:48 In a predominated, the news for the next 20 years.

27:54 School desegregation. Litigation the

28:00 Paul Montgomery Bus Boycott.

28:06 Little Rock.

28:08 Little Rock had a very profound effect on us. We were in junior high school and go home every night and watch what was going on. Watch the kids going to school in a Little Rock and they were our age.

28:23 So we had that was sort of staring watching watching that.

28:37 Are you don't come home and watch these kids who basically look just like you walking through these chance. Absolute vicious mobs of

28:53 Segregationist.

29:00 How to get to school spitting on him, throwing stuff at them?

29:04 And if it is perfectly normal, nice children, just trying to go to the school. They theoretically had a constitutional right to attend so

29:18 Yeah, that that.

29:21 You know, what's a particular?

29:32 The pain is not quite the right word. But you know what the lines were? After you watch that.

29:39 Did your parents talk to you about with the cementon to the discussion around, massino's quite clear that there was a series of?

30:01 Epic racial confrontations going on around the country.

30:07 So, being around the people, you know, who are friends of your parents and watching us going on. Did you, how did you begin to be shaped us? Like a politically conscious person like to see all these people who were doing nothing. You're simply working with doing real work and doing really important work.

30:28 Did you feel like you also wanted to go down and do the work? And how did you become involved or did you?

30:35 A certain way.

30:37 Well, let the chances of here a bit.

30:48 10 more minutes. Do the other thing which I very serious, very short. Memories of my parents have been very fortunate to get they had unusual educational opportunities. It sort of came their way. We know, all kinds of people in Washington who were just very smart and wonderful talented people, some of them never had an opportunity to get an education to my phone, you know, had an opportunity to get an education but you have never had the kind of Aqua breaks a dessert and people who would struggle to get through law school and ended up working in the post office. When did have working as Waiters.

31:36 That seemed to be could have done more. If not for their circumstance, Walter just told you that they were lots of them. I mean that was just the whole reality. They would. Just the community was just full of them. They weren't isolated. They weren't random. There were significant part of the community.

32:05 You all. And I had I had aunts and cousins and so forth to, you know, I thought of smart people with good values who?

32:21 You never really got their fair share of opportunities.

32:25 Sota jump ahead. When do you remember becoming politically engaged? And like I said, we could just call the Civil Rights Movement.

32:34 College, how did that come about? All right, down the street with Yale law school or wherever there was just a lot going on, the couch was still fairly somewhat conservative. But you had a great president caneman, Brewster a great Chaplin Williams song and coughing and then there was just a lots of stuff going on at the law school. There speakers. There were the people who lost, who were organizing and defending Freedom ride to be doing civil rights litigation.

33:10 So the Mike, the most interesting people around Yale or in those categories and a lot of the activities was going around the with swirling through the law school of the summer projects. Snake was getting going. There was

33:37 The Mississippi Freedom, Democrats ran, amok election. And somebody else students when South knows firsthand the first guy I've ever, I knew who went South was Joe Lieberman and Lieberman on the election for the 64. I figured it was in that. And he came to back and we just sat down and talked about it and he was it was first conversation I've ever had with somebody. You went down south to work. And so I think a bunch of us went in the next summer. I went down there next couple, snacks few summer. So first summer I was in Hattiesburg.

34:22 Where is Hilltown call Palmer's crossing right? Outside of Hattiesburg second summer. I was in Montgomery and we walked around trying to school supposed to be integrated. So we tried to walk around trying to sign up people to go to the school's. It was supposed to be in a gray and then no seconds on the first summer. We saw rights organizations had set up these things for Freedom School. So toward Freedom schools, and then try to get people to register to vote.

35:02 How did you feel about your efforts? Were they successful or were you frustrated?

35:08 You can't, you know, the did, the did the success with long-term and being a long-term, whatever. I mean, the efforts I made were just in your inconsequential compared with people who are really running these operations, and you do not there just for summer, but just kind of devoting a major parts of their lives to it. Or did you know it did that the snakeheads changed America?

35:39 Do you remember a lot about the day that you attended the March on Washington?

35:49 He obviously our house was packed and we had all these friends, a lot of friends who come in town for their roles in sleeping on the basement.

36:01 What not?

36:03 And,

36:08 And everyone just kind of got up in the morning and went down there.

36:12 Was the scene like what did it feel like?

36:18 Big crowd.

36:22 What do you remember about? Dr. King? Speech?

36:28 You know, we were all just kind of Blown Away, you'd heard it before but nothing quite like that.

36:40 Where is the most impressive? People were there with the snake kids? These were the student loan people to so many of them who in their teens, who never got on TV and started organizing. And, you know that these real lion, infested hell, holes in the sink, people deliberately picked out the toughest places in the south.

37:05 Remember, any of those guys in particular guys are girls.

37:08 Robert Moses, John Lewis was Moses and the devil.

37:18 Foreman. These were just real extraordinary people.

37:23 In a real small, real courageous.

37:28 Totally dedicated.

37:36 As someone who is doing that kind of work. Did you feel optimistic about your ability to sort of create? He'll be part of a movement, that was going to create better race relations better conditions, for people mean.

37:54 How do you feel now?

37:57 Aldi's near Americas, has been a sea change in America and it came about as a result of those efforts. To mean, I started on a maximized tiny roll.

38:10 Or over Satan anyway, the tiny role. I played them in the real heroes were some of the people, I mentioned it. So, the people in the South who, you know, didn't have much, but we're willing to risk everything. They had 44 change and

38:27 When are you view?

38:31 Have to understand them and they did their work in front of me. And I mean American society, that was

38:42 You mean a bar in launch? Didn't think African-Americans were worth worth hiring or the educating or worth keeping?

38:56 United until those people came along in this community. You didn't know where this country was going to, you know, take the road that South Africa was going to take to cook.

39:06 Do you think that their legacy has been borne out?

39:17 New York City after through the forties was hot, was a very nice. The public accommodations were officially desegregated, but the job market, certainly wasn't how the residential Market was in New York. City was deliberately and shamelessly segregated by a combination of the New York State, real estate board and federal government agencies over funding housing, in private people that were building houses on Long Island, like Levittown to, you know, help White's after the water, get out of the city out of there in Levittown, you know, the house is all head rebuild with racial restrictive. Covenants, Need a New York City, 1946 1947.

40:08 And you couldn't go to any business or any of them.

40:14 In a commercial Enterprise of any consequence in New York, if you are from her, can get a teaching job in a lot of places have token folks. But, you know, it was a lot of people. New York had a real tough experiences in. This was the one of the best places to be.

40:35 Do you think that your experiences being close to the law school and being part of those movements to that plan to your decision to also become a lawyer place around that I could see? Was you at law school. She like yellow school, maybe not as active as it was when you were there. All the things that are going on.

41:17 We're fortunate in that regard.

41:20 Are you experienced, don't you? Thank you so much for encouraging me to do this.