- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

DETROIT (AP) — When the Mays Printing Co. ran off 10,000 copies of the obituary programs from Rosa Parks’ funeral, demand for them was high. At $10 apiece, they sold out in three days after the November ceremony.

But to Susan McCauley and other relatives of Mrs. Parks, the sale cheapened the name of the quiet, unassuming woman whose act of defiance 50 years ago on a Montgomery, Ala., bus changed the course of history.

“We just don’t think our aunt would have wanted it this way,” said Mrs. McCauley, who grew up near Mrs. Parks in Detroit and now lives in suburban Atlanta.

Mrs. McCauley is one of 13 nieces and nephews who have asked a judge to throw out Mrs. Parks’ will and place a nephew, William McCauley, in charge of her estate. For years, they have feuded with the people Mrs. Parks appointed to handle her affairs, longtime friend Elaine Steele and retired Detroit Judge Adam Shakoor.

Mrs. Parks had no children and her husband died before her. But her modest estate isn’t the real issue. It’s control of the legal rights to use Mrs. Parks’ name, photos and other yet-to-be-determined intellectual property that rises from her stature as an American civil rights icon.

“Of course there is no intent to exploit any aspect of this person, this great American citizen who we loved and respected,” said Mr. Shakoor, a retired chief judge of Detroit’s 36th District Court.

At a probate court hearing in Detroit last week, both sides agreed to jointly administer the estate for 90 days while they negotiate and exchange information. Mr. McCauley and Mr. Shakoor will share the responsibility. If they do not settle within 90 days, the family can file a motion to challenge the will.

Shortly before Mrs. Parks’ funeral, the Mays company printed up the first run of programs for the 4,000 people expected to attend. The seven-hour ceremony was held nine days after her Oct. 24 death at the age of 92.

After the funeral, copies appeared on the EBay online auction site for $150 or $200, said Gregory J. Reed, who until recently was Mrs. Parks’ attorney. To take the profit out of selling them, Miss Steele and Mr. Shakoor decided to print a second run, Mr. Reed said.

The proceeds just covered costs, plus a small profit that went to the Rosa & Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, Mr. Reed said.

But Mrs. Parks’ relatives, all sons and daughters of Mrs. Parks’ brother, Sylvester, say it’s one more example of how Miss Steele and Judge Shakoor have misused their aunt’s name since she gave them control of her affairs, about the same time she began showing signs of dementia.

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