John J. Parker

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John Parker
French judges at nuremberg.jpg
Parker (left) with two French judges
Chief Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
In office
September 1, 1948 – March 17, 1958
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded bySimon Sobeloff
Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
In office
December 14, 1925 – March 17, 1958
Appointed byCalvin Coolidge
Preceded byCharles Woods
Succeeded byHerbert Boreman
Personal details
Born(1885-11-20)November 20, 1885
Monroe, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedMarch 17, 1958(1958-03-17) (aged 72)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BA, LLB)

John Johnston Parker (November 20, 1885 – March 17, 1958) was a U.S. judge who failed confirmation to the Supreme Court by one vote. He was also the U.S. alternate judge at the Nuremberg trials of accused Nazi war criminals and later served on the United Nations' International Law Commission.

John J. Parker was born in Monroe, North Carolina, the son of John Daniel and Frances Johnston Parker and older brother of Samuel I. Parker, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in World War I. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1907 and a law degree in 1908. While at the university, Parker was president of his class in his freshman and senior years, of the student council, of the athletic association, and of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He was also a member of the Dialectic Society and an intercollegiate debater. In addition, he won a number of prizes and medals.

Parker's Supreme Court nomination

After leaving the university, Parker practiced law in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1908–1909, and then, from 1910 until 1922, he practiced law in his hometown of Monroe. Parker married Maria Burgwin Maffitt of Wilmington, North Carolina in 1910. He was nominated by the Republican Party for the United States Congress in 1910 and for North Carolina Attorney General in 1916 and ran unsuccessfully against Cameron A. Morrison for governor in 1920. In 1922, Parker moved to Charlotte and became head of the law firm of Parker, Stewart, McRae, and Bobbitt. In 1924, he was elected Republican National Committeeman from North Carolina and delegate to the Republican National Convention which nominated Calvin Coolidge. After serving as special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States in 1923, Parker was appointed, in 1925, as one of the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond. He became Chief Judge in 1931 and served in that capacity until his death in 1958, at which time he was senior appellate judge of the United States.

On March 21, 1930, Parker was nominated by President Herbert Hoover to the United States Supreme Court, but, as a result of political opposition,[1] was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 39–41; had a single senator switched his vote from rejection to approval, Vice President Charles Curtis would have cast the tie-breaking vote for confirmation of the nomination.[2] Parker was opposed by labor groups because of an opinion he had written regarding the United Mine Workers and yellow-dog contracts and by the nascent NAACP because of remarks he had made while a candidate for governor in 1920 about the participation of African-Americans in the political process: "The participation of the Negro in politics," said Parker, "is a source of evil and danger to both races and is not desired by the wise men in either race or by the Republican Party of North Carolina."[3] The NAACP asked Parker if he had been quoted correctly, and asked him if he still held such views. He never responded.[4]

Parker's supporters pointed out that his opinion in the labor case closely followed Supreme Court precedent and his 1920 remarks were in response to charges that the Republican Party was organizing the African-American vote. The rejection of his nomination by the U.S. Senate was the first such unsuccessful nomination to the Supreme Court since that of Wheeler Hazard Peckham in 1894. Owen Roberts was later appointed and confirmed to the seat.

In 1945–1946, Parker served as an alternate judge on the International Allied Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany. In 1954, he was elected to serve on the United Nations' International Law Commission. He was active in the American Bar Association and the North Carolina Bar Association which occasionally offers the John J. Parker Award, its highest award.

Parker was an active Episcopalian and for many years a member of the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina.

Parker died of a heart attack on March 17, 1958 in Washington. He was there to attend the Spring Meeting of the Judicial Conference of the United States and to deliver to the National Conference of the United Nations League of Lawyers an address entitled "Law and the World Community".


  1. ^ Watson Jr., Richard L. (September 1963). "The Defeat of Judge Parker: A Study in Pressure Groups and Politics". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 50 (2): 213–234. JSTOR 1902754.
  2. ^ Kenneth W. Goings (1990). The "Naacp Comes of Age": The Defeat of Judge John J. Parker. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-32585-3.
  3. ^ "U.S. Senate: The Senate Rejects a Supreme Court Nominee".
  4. ^ Sullivan., Patricia (2009). Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: The New Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-59558-446-5.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank Linney
Republican nominee for Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Isaac Meekins
Legal offices
Preceded by
Charles Woods
Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Succeeded by
Herbert Boreman
New office Chief Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Succeeded by
Simon Sobeloff

Judges of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg
United Kingdom Geoffrey Lawrence (president) Norman Birkett (alternate) United Kingdom
United States Francis Biddle (judge) John Parker (alternate) United States
France Henri de Vabres (judge) Robert Falco (alternate) France
Soviet Union Iona Nikitchenko (judge) Alexander Volchkov (alternate) Soviet Union