Federal Judge Jerry Parker dies
By AMY WIMMER, Times Staff Writer
CLEARWATER -- Judge Jerry R. Parker, described by fellow jurists as a workaholic who put family and work first, had detailed instructions for his memorial service.
He directed his family to hold it on a Friday afternoon -- the most convenient time for staff at the federal courthouse.
"That's the kind of person he was," said Judge John R. Blue, chief judge of the 2nd District Court of Appeal. "It kind of hurts because that was so Jerry."
Mr. Parker, 62, died Saturday morning after an 18-month battle with lymphoma. He continued to work from his office in the federal courthouse in Tampa until several weeks ago.
Saturday, Parker's family and colleagues described him as a kind man and a tough judge. Parker came to the bench from a background as a prosecutor and FBI agent and is remembered as being intensely fair in criminal cases.
"He was an extremely hard worker," said longtime Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer, "and hard work brings good results."
Judge Parker was born in Oilton, Okla., the third of four children to a nurse and an oil field worker. His father died when he was in his early teens, and his wife, Linda Parker, said he learned the value of hard work by helping his mother make ends meet.
"They did not come from wealth," Mrs. Parker said Saturday. "All the kids had to get jobs to support the family. He never could understand anyone who said they couldn't provide for their family."
He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Oklahoma. When he joined the FBI, his first assignment was in the agency's Tampa office, where he met his wife. She was a stenographer.
They married in 1967 and had two sons: Bradley, 29, a lawyer in New Orleans; and Kevin, 25, a consultant in Tampa. Fourteen months ago, Brad Parker's son, Lucien, was born, making the judge a grandfather.
He was first elected county judge in 1977. In 1981, Gov. Bob Graham appointed Parker to the circuit bench. In 1987, Gov. Bob Martinez appointed him to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, a post he held until his death.
Judge Chris Altenberndof the 2nd District Court of Appeal recalled that Judge Parker often volunteered to take on extra "criminal writs" to review in his spare time. Those are court filings handwritten by inmates, who outline why they think they were treated unfairly by lower courts.
"They're hard to decipher, and we get more than 1,000 a year," Altenbernd said. "Most of us hate to even do our fair share, and he took on more than his share."
Schaeffer recalled that in her first years as a circuit judge in the early 1980s, she relied on Judge Parker and his intricate filing system, composed of nuggets of legal information and case backgrounds jotted down on index cards.
"If I wanted a good place to start, he could point me in the right direction," Schaeffer recalled. "He was known as a judge's judge."
His index cards eventually gave way to technology, and Parker headed the Florida Supreme Court's Technology Commission. Blue, his fellow jurist on the appeals court, called him "a computer nerd -- and I mean that lovingly."
In October, the Florida Supreme Court honored Judge Parker in a resolution, calling him "a champion and avid supporter of implementing and maintaining technology to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Florida courts."
Judge Parker approached his illness with the same doggedness he brought to his work, friends said Saturday. "He fought this like you'd never believe," Altenbernd said. "I really thought he'd beat it."
A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Friday at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Clearwater.
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