Isaac C. Parker: The Legend Of The Hanging Judge

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Legend of the “Hanging Judge” While in search of a piece of Arkansas history I came across a familiar name when research brought me to Judge Isaac Parker. Remembered today as the “Hanging Judge”, Isaac C. Parker had an impressive thirty-five year career in public service. He became a frontier attorney, later served as a city attorney, state judge, a two year term representative to Congress, and his most notable legacy as a federal district judge in Fort Smith, Arkansas for twenty-one years.
Isaac Charles Parker was born October 15, 1838 to Joseph and Jane Parker. He was born and raised near Barnesville, in Belmont County, Ohio. While being raised on a farm Isaac was always destine to get an education. His mother was the niece of the Governor
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He built a reputation of a honest lawyer and a leader of the community. He was reelected as city attorney in 1862 and 1863. In 1864, Parker formally left the Democratic Party and ran for county prosecutor for the Ninth Missouri Judicial District as a Republican. He also served as a member of the Electoral College, casting his vote for Abraham Lincoln. In 1868, Parker won a six year term as Judge of the Twelfth Missouri Circuit. His political ambitions began to soar in 1870 when Parker was nominated as the Republican nominee for the Seventh Congressional District. Isaac resigned as judge to focus on his campaign. What began as a heated campaign ended when two weeks prior to the election his opponent withdrew from the race. Parker easily won the November 8, 1870 election. Isaac Parker held his first session of the Forty Second Congress om March 4, 1871. Representative Parker gained respect and influenced legislation to assist veterans, give women the right to vote and hold public office, and organize Indian territory. Representative Parker was elected to a second term in 1872 focusing on Indian policy. By the end of 1874, the momentum in Missouri shifted and he has no chance of reelection. Therefore, Parker sought Presidential Appointment. On March 18, 1875, President Grant nominated Parker as judge for the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith. Judge Isaac Parker held court …show more content…
This had a drastic effect on Judge Parker’s courtroom outcomes. What bothered Parker the most was two-thirds of the cases appealed were reversed and sent back for new trials. In the five years of 1891-1896, fifty criminal cases were appealed to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that 30 out of 47 persons convicted of murder hadn’t received a fair trial. Of those 30 cases, 16 cases were discharged or won acquittals at their retrial. Judge Parker had no sympathy for killers but was also a fair man. He did occasionally grant a retrial that reduced sentencing. During his 21 years of service on the bench, Judge Isaac Parker tried 13, 490 cases, 344 were capital crimes, 9,454 cases were convictions or guilty pleas. He sentenced 160 men to death and sent 79 men to their deaths by hanging which resulted in his famous nickname “The Hanging Judge’. Though Parker actually supported the abolishment of the death penalty he strictly upheld the law. It is widely known that Judge Parker held his sympathy for the victims and is now viewed as one of the first victim’s rights

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