By anyone’s standards, Alan A. Parker J.D. ’64 enjoyed a lofty legal career. After a successful law practice in San Jose, he worked for U.S. Rep. Don Edwards and became the general counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, playing a central role in the impeachment effort against Richard Nixon. In the waning days of the Jimmy Carter administration, he served as an assistant attorney general.
All of that was remarkable enough. It was more noteworthy because of an unusual gap in his resume. Parker did not attend college. In fact, he nearly failed to get a high school degree.
He did graduate from Santa Clara University Law School in 1964 and passed the bar exam shortly afterward. Nobody ever questioned that he had a head for strategy and a gift of gab, recounting stories and offering advice in a resonant radio narrator’s voice.
Parker died on Sept. 2 at the age of 88 in the Sacramento-area town Lincoln after a long illness. He left behind a legacy in California Democratic politics and an eclectic career that was guided in part by his friendships with Edwards and Senator Alan Cranston.
Born in New York City on Nov. 28, 1927, Parker moved with his parents to Southern California while he was still young. His father, William Parker, was a Hollywood writer and his mother, Beverly, ran the women’s department in a large store. Both parents were Russian immigrants.
A fitful but bright high school student who preferred to read at the library rather than attend class, Parker served in the U.S. Army from 1946 to 1947, entertaining troops as a disc jockey in the South Pacific. Disappointed in his ambitions for a radio career, he worked for a decade as a safety engineer and manager, jobs that took him to the Bay Area.
His passion, however, was politics. Along with Cranston, Parker was instrumental in forming the California Democratic Council, a network of Democratic clubs that became the organizational backbone of the party. In 1960, he was part of a movement to draft Adlai Stevenson for a third run at the presidency.
After Cranston was elected controller in 1958, Parker took a state job as a inheritance tax appraiser, a job that brought him into frequent contact with lawyers. His widow, Odette Parker, said Parker went to law school after being urged to do so by then-attorney and later Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Bill Harris. “He said, ‘Alan, you’re so bright, why don’t you go to law school?‘’’ Odette Parker said.
Taking advantage of a policy that allowed credit for life experience, Parker studied for a year at San Francisco College of Law and then completed a full three-year legal course at Santa Clara. He formed a legal partnership in San Jose with John Chargin, another lawyer active in politics.
In 1971, Parker was recruited by Edwards to become his legislative director. Two years later, he was appointed general counsel for the House Judiciary Committee. After brief service as an assistant AG under Attorney General Griffin Bell, he returned as general counsel in 1980, when Jimmy Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan.
Parker helped to draft the articles of impeachment against Nixon that were approved by the Judiciary Committee in 1974 (Nixon resigned before the full House could vote on them.) The former San Jose lawyer also participated in an expansion of the Voting Rights Act, the defeat of a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion, and the investigation into the Kent State shootings.
“Alan never lost his fidelity to truth and the Constitution, and he never lost his marvelous sense of humor and dedication to his family,’’ said U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who succeeded Edwards in 1995.
Parker is survived by his wife of 45 years, Odette, and his four children by a previous marriage — Billie, Jonathan, Betsy and Barbara.