In 2001, the world lost a great champion for the public interest, a family lost a devoted husband and father, and I lost a stalwart friend. Earle K. Moore, or Dick as he’s more readily known, was an exceptionally fine attorney whose dedication to others has left a legacy to which very few can compare. His calm nature masked a fire for justice that engulfed his spirit.
For most of his life, Dick juggled the rigors of a thriving full-time corporate securities law practice while dedicating what free time he had to fighting injustice. Dick often worked all-nighters in order to ensure that all of his clients, corporate or not, received exceptional legal services. This public interest work culminated in many of the opportunities that people of color and women have garnered in the past 50 years. Very few realize the impact that Dick has had on communications, particularly within the field of media. We still have a ways to go, but we must not forget where we once were and the people that fought to get us here.
Dick’s most recognized accomplishment would probably be the work that we did on the United Church of Christ case, which ended unfair coverage of race issues in Southern television stations. The seminal case took years to fight, but we only saw the finish line. Dick performed pro bono work for the United Church of Christ for years, a labor of love that solidified their relationship. On top of his work with the United Church of Christ, Dick, was the principal legal theorist behind the creation of citizen participation in the broadcast regulatory process.
From MMTC’s David Honig to Media Access Project’s Andy Schwartzman and Citizens Communications Center’s Al Kramer, there are many noteworthy public interest attorneys that can recollect Dick’s mentoring. I spoke to Al not too long ago, and we reminisced about the first time I introduced the two back in 1969 when Al wanted to establish his own public interest firm. Al was doing due diligence about starting the firm, and Dick and I were eagerly awaiting the decision in the United Church of Christ Case. A case that would decide, for the first time, whether civil rights groups had legal standing to ensure that the FCC open up its licensing process. Always eager to assist those who were in need, Dick unhesitatingly guided Al on setting up the firm, the Citizens Communications Center (CCC), despite the tense time and his busy schedule. Dick continued to counsel Al about the CCC, which by 1982 had focused its work on equal employment opportunity (EEO) cases and had raised enough money to become part of the Georgetown Law Center.
Looking back over the decades, there are very few FCC measures to help minorities and women for which Dick has not had a hand in fighting. From being a critical component in getting the FCC to enact the EEO standards, to our work representing churches in Fairness Doctrine cases, and his work in promoting programming diversity, Dick was a part of it all. He always made time to talk to community groups, and was fearless when it came to traveling through the dangerous depths of the racist South during the Civil Rights movement, Dick was an indomitable advocate. There weren’t many strategies that I or other public interest-minded attorneys didn’t run past Dick first. We worked together for decades. We were quite a pair.
This is why I am so pleased to know that Dick’s legacy of helping other attorneys in their path to serving the public interest is effectuated through his and his beloved wife Katherine’s foundation. I’m sure that Dick would be proud of the efforts, like MMTC’s Earle K. Moore fellowship program, that are funded each year in an effort to continue his lifelong goals.
Dick and I wanted to get the public interest movement focused on just how critical a role media was playing in shaping the nation’s future. We wanted activists to use various levers of rules, regulations, and laws to ensure that Americans could access a variety of viewpoints in the media, that minorities could have access to equal employment opportunities, that advocates could promote minority ownership of stations. At the very least, we wanted to start a dialogue to promote minority issues and voices, to bring into the open the pervasiveness of the media in shaping the voices of minority issues. We wanted to open the dialogue and create opportunities for groups that had been traditionally marginalized for centuries.
In the end, all Dick ever wanted was to be a positive force in this world. Dick, my friend, you definitely were.
Editor’s Note: Everett C. Parker played a leading role in the development of public interest in American television. He served as director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ from 1954 until 1983. He is best known for his leadership in the development of an influential media reform and citizen action movement in broadcasting, and his activism focused on improved broadcast employment prospects for minorities and women. Near the end of his career, he was named one of the most influential men in broadcasting by the trade publication Broadcasting Magazine.
Parker is also a co-founder of MMTC, and from 1996 to 2009 he served as MMTC’s Treasurer. He still remains a member of MMTC’s Board of Directors. On January 17, 2013, Parker will turn 100 years old. BBSJ recently interviewed Parker and reflected on his life and influences as a civil rights activist.
MMTC’s Earle K. Moore Fellowship has been named in Moore’s honor, and Latoya Livingston is its current fellow. Past fellows include Joe Miller, who is currently Acting Director and Senior Policy Counsel at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.