Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker advocated for racial equality on American television from his powerful position as director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ from 1954 until 1983. He led the Church’s public media activities and by the end of his career was named one of the most influential men in broadcasting by Broadcasting Magazine. Dr. Parker used this platform to fight for citizen’s rights and media reform, including better representation for people of color on the air.
After meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about discriminatory coverage at local TV stations in the South, Dr. Parker and the Office targeted WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi, petitioning to deny renewal of their broadcasting license. In Dr. Parker’s words, “We found that there was such a terrible situation in Jackson, Mississippi with WLBT. It had a KKK bookstore on the property and it discriminated terribly against blacks.” The case was decided in the Office’s favor, leading to WLBT’s license being revoked in 1969. Other stations, afraid of the consequences of their discriminatory behavior, began racially integrating the content on their stations. Dr. Parker followed this victory with a successful petition to the FCC that led to the national adoption of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules for broadcasting.
In his later years, Dr. Parker turned his attention to issues of employment and opportunity in the media industry. He began working with Emma Bowen, Dan Burke, and other leaders to form the Emma Bowen Foundation and provide a clear path for young people of color to join the media industry. He remained a member of the Foundation’s board well into his 90s, and a supporter of the Emma Bowen Foundation until his death in 2015.
“I think the most important thing that I have done, in my whole life, is getting the EEO rules and starting the [Emma Bowen Foundation], which has put hundreds of minority kids into the broadcasting and cable industries.”