The first African-American on the Madison City Council when he was elected in 1969.
The city's first affirmative action director.
Ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1988 and 1999.
Parks was a lightning rod for civil rights in the city, never afraid to take a controversial stand or to butt heads with the city's leadership.
When he suddenly died in February 2005, he had become one of Madison's best-known citizens and always on the side of those he considered the oppressed and downtrodden. He once remarked that he was like a dose of castor oil. "I am, for many people in this city, like a dose of castor oil," he said during the campaign. "Nobody likes to take castor oil. But it's good for you."
His criticism of how Madison Area Technical College handled the hiring of a new president, and its
inability to keep a qualified black finalist, eventually led to his firing in 1988. One of the
longest-running legal disputes in city history began in October 1988 when Eugene Parks, then the city's
Affirmative Action Officer, was served notice of his firing by then Mayor Joe Sensenbrenner. Parks got
the word at the bar of the old Fess Hotel, now the Great Dane Brew Pub. Knowing the firing was coming
he wouldn’t go to his office, forcing city officials to go and find him. Parks claimed the firing was
illegal and filed suit against the city. He eventually won his case, was awarded more than $400,000,
and was reinstated as a city employee working in the municipal sign shop.