Thomas Duke Parke
Parke was the grandson of another Thomas Duke Parke, born in 1793 in Sligo, Ireland, who emigrated to the United States in 1815. His father was Daniel Clifford Parke.
Parke earned his medical certificate in New York in 1879 and his board certification in Dallas, Texas in 1884. He worked as a mining company doctor in Mexico before coming to Birmingham. He was employed as the Birmingham City Physician in 1895 and 1899. He also worked as a Jefferson County health officer and his office, at that time, was in the Jefferson County Health Office on the 2nd floor of the Chalifoux Building on the southwest corner of 1st Avenue North and 19th Street.
After inspecting a mine in Coalburg for the Jefferson County Medical Society, Parke published a scathing report on the conditions in which convict miners worked. He also reported on condition as the Sloss-Sheffield Company Prison in 1895.
As a public official, Parke was a leading critic of the convict lease system in Alabama, campaigning against the practice and its abuses for 28 years. He recorded that many prisoners were sent to the mines for minor infractions and kept there for a year or more working off debts for fees related to their incarceration. He further noted the inhumane treatment of convict workers by mine operators and foremen, for whom the cost of replacing a sick or dead miner was inconsequential.
Parke's medical specialty, however, was pediatric disease. He was one of the founders of Children's Hospital.
Parke's diaries, photographs, and other papers are held in the manuscript collections of the Birmingham Public Library archives.
- "Slavery by Another Name: The Convict Lease System in Alabama" (2005) Robert P. Collins, editor. The Vulcan Historical Review. Volume 9. pp. 9-16