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Governor signs Rosa Parks Act in Tennessee

By Lucas L. Johnson Ii
Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE — Tennesseans charged with crimes while protesting segregation-era laws will be able to have their records cleared beginning next month.

Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed what is known as the Rosa Parks Act into law, according to information released by his office Thursday.

“It’s something that’s long overdue here in the state of Tennessee and I’m just glad to be supportive of it,” said Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a Blountville Republican who joined his colleagues in unanimously approving the measure.

The bill passed the House 88-6.

“Hindsight is always 20-20,” said House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol. “I think we recognize the seriousness and emotions that have happened in the past, and that’s why you saw it overwhelmingly pass.”

Last year, Alabama became the first state to pass the Rosa Parks Act. The Alabama law grants a pardon, but then sends the criminal record to the state archives to be used in museums or for other educational purposes.

All records would be destroyed in Tennessee, unless there is a specific request to preserve them for public display.

However, some civil rights activists have said they will not seek a pardon since they consider their arrest records a badge of honor.

Both Tennessee and Alabama would allow posthumous pardons, and that could apply to Parks herself, whose arrest in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus led to the Montgomery bus boycott that established the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a national figure. Parks died in 2005.

A similar measure failed in the Florida Legislature.

But Tennessee Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle said he believes other states will follow suit after the bill’s successful passage in Alabama and Tennessee.

“I believe it’s a model for the nation,” said Kyle, who along with fellow Democrat Rep. Lois DeBerry, were the measure’s main sponsors.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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