STAKES IN ROSA PARKS’ ESTATE RETURNED TO FRIEND, INSTITUTE

A $10 million collection of memorabilia that belonged to civil rights icon Rosa Parks will return to the control of the institute that bears her name and the friend Parks asked to help administer her estate after she died. A recent decision by the Michigan Supreme Court overturned an appellate court ruling that the trustees of the estate were rightfully stripped of their authority over an alleged confidentiality breach.

According to an attorney representing the friend and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, a probate judge put a pair of attorneys in charge of Parks’ estate after she died in 2005. In administering the estate, the attorneys allegedly ran up excessive fees for themselves and convinced the judge to strip the institute and the friend of control of Parks’ memorabilia collection and rights over her name.

The friend and the institute appealed the decision, but the appellate court upheld the probate court’s decision. They further appealed to the state supreme court, which on Dec. 29 reversed the lower court’s ruling. Neither the institute nor the friend had violated a confidentiality agreement, so there was no basis to take ownership of the memorabilia away from them, the court said.

The collection is believed to be worth up to $10 million. An auction house is currently seeking a buyer.

Parks is best known for a 1955 incident where she refused the orders of a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, to give up her seat to a white passenger and move to the back of the bus, as required by the state’s Jim Crow laws. Her civil disobedience and subsequent arrest led to the famous bus boycott by black citizens of the city, which eventually led to the end of segregated busing in the city.

Source: Detroit Free Press, “Rosa Parks estate ruling overturned; institute regains financial stakes,” David Ashenfelter, Dec. 30, 2011