By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
Local lawyer Quanah Parker, (’68) shares more with the Comanche chief Quanah Parker than a few letters. Abilene’s Quanah projects the determined advocacy, controversial politics and brash action his namesake displayed in the last century- and like the Quanah of the past, he does what he thinks he needs to do.
In an office cluttered with Texas memorabilia, including a giant Texas driver’s license, a state flag and a University of Texas floor mat, photos of the Comanche chief, who is known for surrendering to the U.S. Army at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill, pepper the walls of the Quanah Parker Law Office, 702 Hickory Street, waiting room as well as Quanah’s personal office.
Quanah plops his cowboybooted foot across his knee, rocks back in his wooden rocking chair and launches into a detailed history of the man he calls the original Quanah.
The original Quanah’s mother was Anglo, and her capture by a Comanche tribe resulted in a marriage to the chief. Their son, Quanah, grew to be a progressive leader who worked closely with white leaders, a move that earned the praise of some and the scorn of others.
Quanah guffaws at a story he once heard about the chief who, sporting an array of scalps on his belt, told a listener he had one regret: “I never got a blond.”
The Comanche chief is known for more than his brash comment, however, thanks to his advocacy for his people as they adjusted to life on a reservation following Quanah’s surrender.
“The Parkers were big in Texas history,” Quanah said of his namesake. And on a waiting room wall, Quanah proudly displays his own Parker family tree.
The knowledge comes less as a result of research and more from a machine gunner Quanah served with in the army whose doctoral thesis focused on Quanah Parker and the Peyote cult, Quanah said.
Grateful clients and friends present Quanah with knickknacks of his namesake, sometimes with a story to share as well.
“He was quite a politician, he was,” Quanah says, gesturing toward a larger photo of the Comanche chief.
Quanah tells a lively story- facial expressions and hand gestures punctuate his familiarity with the chief’s story – and he ends by explaining his own ties to the Comanche. While not a direct descendant, Quanah said his great-grandfather was a third cousin, and once delivered a piano to the chief.
He seems less excited to talk about his own history, perhaps for its lack of scalping stories, but begins by explaining how he found himself in Abilene.
Quanah’s parents left Norman, Okla., in 1962 to move to a city Parker’s father called “Mecca” for its many churches – Abilene.
After attending Abilene High School, the next natural step seemed to be attending college on the hill.
“I lettered four years in not getting caught,” Quanah says, throwing back his head and laughing. He doesn’t elaborate, but instead says he worked as a crew leader for Southwest Company selling Bibles and pledged men’s social club Sub T-16.
As a Gob, or a Sub T pledge, Quanah recalled having two dates every Wednesday night, calling it a “good way to meet chicks.”
“They cringe when they mention me at ACU,” Quanah says with a grin. “‘Cause I’m kinda crazy.”
After undergraduate work, Quanah said he vacillated between dentistry and law before enrolling at the University of Texas law school just before the draft.
“I picked law ’cause it starts late,” Quanah said, laughing. “I really didn’t know what I was getting into. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Quanah promptly went to the army after graduating from law school in 1971, where he served as a lieutenant in the military police corps for two years.
“It beat the infantry,” Quanah said, explaining he had been in the infantry prior to police corps.
In 1977, Quanah found himself making a pilgrimage back to Abilene to work as a representative for the oil company Pride Refining.
“Of course like everyone else, I swore I’d never come back,” he said.
By 1981, Quanah had worked as a district attorney and settled into his law practice where, he recites flawlessly and with a note of irony, he works with the “crippled, downtrodden and the damned.”
*No good lawyers – just good facts*
At the Quanah Parker Law Office, Quanah offers legal advice on personal injury, family law, criminal law, bankruptcy, auto accidents, wrongful death, nursing home negligence, on-the job injuries, dog bites, DWI, traffic tickets, felonies and misdemeanors, drivers’ license suspension, divorce, real estate, grandparent access, custody and adoption, probate and wills and termination of child support.
And the best part of his job? “It’s not boring,” he says.
A typical day, though none really is, begins at about 8:45 a.m. and ends at 5:30 or 6 p.m.
“My momma cried when I told her I was going to law school,” Quanah said, explaining that she didn’t believe a person could be both a Christian and a lawyer. But Quanah says the practice is a chance to share his faith, and he jokes, “We can’t tell our clients to lie – we just tell them to go to another lawyer.”
Turning serious, he adds, “There’s no good lawyers – just good facts. All that stuff on TV is crazy. down here in the trenches of Abilene, that’s not how it is.”
In the trenches, as Quanah calls them, he sees his clients at the worst times in their lives, and observes how poverty is often in direct relationship to the way the law will treat a perpetrator.
Quanah doesn’t mince words – ever – including when he describes his work as a local lawyer.
“We see the result of what happens as a result of bad choices,” he said.
The majority of Quanah’s caseloads involve divorce or representing people accused of criminal offenses. And many, Quanah says, are a direct result of drinking.
The constant reminder of human error doesn’t depress, Quanah says. Instead, he says his work is a constant reminder of the need for grace.
“Doin’ this is a great opportunity to practice Christianity,” Quanah said. “I guess that’s why they call it attorney and counsel at law – ’cause you do a lot of counseling.”
But Quanah seems to rub some the wrong way. A 2005 law-office review on the Judy’s Book Web site paints a less-than-flattering picture: “I haven’t had the best luck with this attorney,” Carol F. writes. “He was kind of forced on me when his partner left the area. The original cost with the other lawyer was not honored, and I was charged extra, for what I feel was absolutely nothing. He showed up in court, that was about it.”
The review is the only comment on the Web site, but Quanah also took a beating from editorial pieces when he ran as the Libertarian candidate for the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2006. A Dallas Morning News piece called him “uninspiring,” and the Abilene Reporter-News labeled him a “perennial loser.” Quanah lost the race – his sixth loss – to Republican incumbent Barbara Hervey with only 25 percent of the vote.
*A tough balance*
A self-proclaimed civil rights proponent, Quanah says he fights for social justice. And sometimes that means picking up the tab himself. The only time he sued for a fee, Quanah said, was when he was going to lose money. Otherwise, he says he lets it slide if a client doesn’t pay the whole fee.
“It’s a fine line,” Quanah said, grinning. “Balancing getting paid for doing my magic.”
He claims he’s baptized more people in his line of work than those who hold a Bible degree, and says he sees the impact Christ has on the lives of his clients.
Quanah once represented a man on death row who was convicted of killing three people.
“He was a pitiful thing,” Quanah recalled.
Sometimes pity is hard to come by, Quanah said.
“Part of me thinks, ‘too bad, so sad,'” he said.
But just as he is sure Jesus would be in the trenches, so Quanah says he goes himself, remembering that often economic conditions or addictive personalities share part of the blame for landing clients in his office.
“I don’t think we can legislate morality,” he said. “But we can teach responsibility.” These days, Quanah has launched a search for a lawyer to join him in his office-both because he now has stints in his heart and because he hopes for more vacation time to visit his first grandchild, Presley.
Perhaps on his next visit to his granddaughter, he can tell her all about the original Quanah Parker – just so long as he leaves out the scalping.