Fight over Rosa Parks' estate continues

July 21, 2011 at 3:30 PM
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DETROIT, July 21 (UPI) -- An institute founded by civil rights icon Rosa Parks has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to return her collection of memorabilia.

The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development said a Wayne County probate judge allowed two court-appointed lawyers, John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr., to collect almost $250,000 in fees handling her $372,000 estate, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday. Judge Freddie Burton then awarded the lawyers the memorabilia and licensing rights to Parks' name and image.

Steven Cohen, a lawyer for the institute and Elaine Steele, Parks' caretaker in her last years, filed papers Tuesday asking the court to reverse lower court rulings on the estate.

Parks, who died in 2005 in Detroit at the age of 92, earned her place in history 50 years earlier when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., to a white man. Her arrest sparked the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The institute says Parks gave it her collection of items like medals, awards and the hat she wore at the time of her arrest years before her death. A New York auction gallery now has the collection and expects it to bring in $10 million.

"Since Mrs. Parks' death in 2005 ... the court system of her adopted city has embarked on a course to destroy her legacy, bankrupt her institute, shred her estate plan and steal her very name," Cohen said.

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