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Richard H. Parsons

June 9, 1936 March 26, 2014
Richard H. Parsons
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Obituary for Richard H. Parsons

PEORIA Richard H. Parsons, 77, of Peoria died at 7:40 a.m. Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at UnityPoint Proctor.
Richard was born June 9, 1936, in McAlester, OK, to Alfred Richard and Veronica Cecilia Parsons. He married Catherine Logan on August 9, 1958, in Peoria. She preceded him in death in 2011.
He is survived by is children, Karen Voss, Anne Muren, and A. Richard Parsons II; and eight grandchildren.
Both his sisters, Helen Murphy and MaryAnn Caster, preceded him in death.
Mr. Parsons graduated from Taylorville High School in Taylorville, IL, in 1954, where he participated on many athletic teams including football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. However, he was most proud of the fact that he was elected captain of the first Taylorville High School Varsity Tennis team.
Tennis continued to play an important part of his life. He played well into his 60s when spinal problems forced him to quit playing the sport he loved the most. After high school, he played tennis for Bradley University for two years. After graduation, he continued to play and own Club and Bar Association mixed and mens doubles tournaments, including championships at Mt. Hawley Country Club, the Peoria Tennis Association, the Peoria County Bar association, and the Racquet Club of Peoria. Additionally, he was a three-time winner of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Tournament. His home and office were festooned with dozens of tennis and golf trophies.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Bradley University in Peoria in 1958. Thereafter, he served in United States Marine Corps PLC Program.
Mr. Parsons graduated from Washington Lee College of Law in 1961. While there, he was business editor of the Washington Lee Law Review. While in law school, he also worked a nearly full-time schedule for The Lexington Gazette, a local Virginia newspaper that was purported to be one of the oldest newspapers in Virginia. He completed post-graduate studies in constitutional law at Harvard Law School under its judges program in the 1980s.
Upon graduating from law school, Mr. Parsons worked for Chicago Title and Trust Company for seven years, ultimately becoming the companys youngest officer and serving as one of its lobbyists in Springfield.
In 1968, he moved to Peoria and entered into the private practice of law, and shortly thereafter, formed and owned the Bankers Title Company, Ltd., issuing agent for Pioneer National Title Insurance Corporation. He did this even while continuing his law practice during the same time period. During this time, he also served on the board of directors for a number of commercial entities, including the Peoria Heights Bank (where he was a charter board member), the Illinois Crown Insurance Corporation, the Rock Island Title and Abstract Company, the Fairway Life Insurance Corporation, the Peacock Engineering Company, and the Another Chicago Press Company.
During this time, Mr. Parsons was also active in the Democratic Party. He was appointed by the governor to the Illinois Capital Development Board, where he was instrumental in obtaining the lights for Memorial Stadium Football Field at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. He also served terms in elected positions, such as Precinct Committeeman and Delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Beginning in 1975, he once again was appointed by the governor to the position of Commissioner/ Trial Judge for the Illinois Court of Claims adjudicating claims made against the State of Illinois. He served in that part-time position for 20 years.
In the mid-1970s, Mr. Parsons began to focus his practice toward criminal defense work. His cases included several capital murder trials, countless federal white-collar crime trials, and numerous other types of federal criminal trials in districts throughout the country. His appellate practice, too, encompassed nearly all of the federal circuits. In these capacities, he represented a wide-range of individuals, from doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians, and corporate executive to drug kingpins. He accepted numerous cases where he was appointed by the federal district court to represent persons without funds to hire an attorney. Many of his cases were tried to verdict, something that seldom happens in this new era of draconian mandatory sentences under the federal guidelines system.
In 1995, Mr. Parsons became the first Federal Public Defender for the Central District of Illinois, a position he held from August 1995 until his retirement in August 2011. Creating the office from the ground up, without a single employee or piece of equipment, the office grew to a staff of more than 21 lawyers and support staff in three divisions. Likewise, in 1999, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals asked him to take on the role as the Circuit Appellate Defender, litigating federal cases on appeal from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. As such, his office litigated more criminal appeals in the Seventh Circuit than any other entity, having litigated approximately 25 percent of all criminal appeals in the Seventh Circuit every year since 2004. In 2003, at the request of the Chief Judge of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, he also served for almost one year as the Acting Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Illinois, while continuing his duties in the Central District of Illinois.
In 1999, he was co-counsel and co-authored the brief and later appeared before the United States Supreme Court in OSullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 119 S.Ct. 1728 (1999).
Mr. Parsons was actively involved in numerous legal associations, including the American Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Peoria County Bar Association. More specifically, he was a life member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the three-time chairman of the American Bar Associations Criminal Amicus Curiae Committee. For seven years, he was a director of the Illinois State Bar Associations Criminal Justice Council, and served as Amicus Curiae Chairman for four years. He was also past president of the Clarence Darrow Inn of the American Inns of Court and past president of the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (1994), on whose board he also served for many years. In 2000, he was awarded the Associations Lawyer of the Year Award, the first down-stater to ever earn this coveted prize. He also served a two-year term on the Board of Directors of the Peoria County Bar Association and served a three-year term on the Illinois Capital Litigation Trial Screening Committee. He was listed in Marquis Whos Who in America.
Mr. Parsons taught over the years at numerous seminars for the criminal defense bar. He was on the faculty of attorney training programs hosted by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Defender Services Division of the United States Courts, the Federal Defenders in several districts (the Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Illinois, Eastern District of Wisconsin, Northern District of Indiana, and Southern District of Indiana), the Wisconsin State Bar Association, the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Indiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Likewise, he conducted several training programs in his own district in Illinois.
Mr. Parsons authored a number of publications directed at criminal defense lawyers. Among them are his books, Possible Issues for Review in Criminal Appeals (now in its second edition), Handbook for Appeals in the Seventh Circuit, and Pleadings Potpourri. He was co-author of a chapter in Federal Crimina


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