She wasn’t as educated on paper as Byrd Brown, didn’t have the musical talent of Tim Stevens, and wasn’t the firebrand that defined Harvey Adams. However, Constance Parker’s dedication to the position of president of the NAACP Pittsburgh branch, and to the people whose rights it fought for, took a backseat to no one.
Parker died July 27 after battling the effects of a series of strokes. She was 74.
“She had a sense of commitment that equaled or surpassed any of her predecessors,” said New Pittsburgh Courier columnist and longtime friend Louis “Hop” Kendrick. “She would wear me out on the phone because her concern over the plight of her people was so fierce. I remember when she had her first stroke, she was back at the office almost right away. I told her to go home and rest. She said, ‘No I can’t do that.’”
Born in Philadelphia, Parker had a long career with PennDOT, serving as the community relations coordinator for the department’s District 11 headquarters. Until her health began taking a turn for the worse several months ago, she also served on the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s board of directors.
With the NAACP, she served the Pittsburgh branch in various capacities for more than 25 years, including first vice president, before being elected to lead the branch in 2012. Always a woman of strong faith, Parker said of her election that “God has me on a mission.”
That five-year mission included fighting to have the state board of education rescind its decision to make passing the Keystone Exam a requirement for high school graduation, challenging the Rivers Casino to diversify its leadership, hiring and supply chains, and calling on Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala to criminally charge the officers involved in the beating of student Jordan Miles and the shooting of motorist Leon Ford.