A few minutes before noon on Sunday, T.J. Connolly emailed a couple of press releases to his friend Jimmy Parks Jr. for Parks’ approval. Over the previous six weeks, Parks – a universally admired, veteran San Antonio criminal-defense attorney – had been quietly planning his big splash into electoral politics: a run for the Republican nomination in the newly created 35th Congressional District of Texas. Connolly, a public-relations consultant, was helping him execute the plan. Only two days earlier, they’d spent nearly five hours formulating Parks’ policy positions on jobs and national defense, and Connolly wanted Parks to look at what they’d come up with, before sending it out.
Parks was always good about responding quickly to Connolly’s messages, but it’s unlikely that he ever saw this one. Shortly after noon, Parks – who suffered from an enlarged heart – collapsed at his North Side home, and was found dead. The sense of collective shock in SA was immediate and powerful.
Parks had always been a tough competitor in the courtroom, but his innate sense of compassion and fairness, his self-deprecating humor, and the calm assurance he projected, allowed him to make friends of his legal adversaries. Similarly, this outspoken, politically active man found a way to transcend the extreme political polarization of these times. He was a Democrat for most of his 61 years, but he easily commanded the respect and affection of local Republicans, including Bexar County DA Susan Reed. He officially defected to the GOP less than a week before he passed, but his switch incited no outcry from his former Democratic allies. To his friends, Jimmy was Jimmy, regardless of his party affiliation.