Rosa Parks’ lawyer surrenders items amid treasure hunt

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit – Rosa Parks’ lawyer has turned over pieces from a missing treasure trove of civil rights, Motown and African American history but several items remain missing ahead of a deadline Tuesday, including the icon’s key to the city and slave shackles.

Items lawyer Gregory Reed surrendered last month include a signed first-edition copy of educator Booker T. Washington’s 1901 autobiography “Up From Slavery,” a Parks print and artwork, according to a federal court filing Monday. But Reed said he no longer had Parks’ key to the city, framed gold records and iron slave shackles.

The court filing Monday is the latest development in a bankruptcy case of a prominent Detroit attorney that featured claims about missing treasure, a mansion with secret rooms and crates stuffed with historical objects. Reed became Parks’ legal adviser in the 1990s and said his client list included singers Aretha Franklin and Anita Baker.

Reed faced a deadline Tuesday to surrender more than 100 items or face a possible jail sentence. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marci McIvor last month delayed deciding whether to send Reed to jail for failing to turn over the items and gave him until 9 a.m. Tuesday to produce the pieces.

Erica Ehrlichman, a lawyer for bankruptcy Trustee Kenneth Nathan, wrote in the court filing that she wants to cancel the hearing after considering the expense of hunting for the missing items and cost to creditors in Reed’s bankruptcy case.

There is no indication whether the missing items have been sold, lost or hidden.

Reed, 69, criticized attempts to send him to jail amid the search for missing items.

“The motion filed was inappropriate, frivolous and totally unnecessary,” Reed wrote in an email to The Detroit News on Monday.

He has said most of the missing items belonged to his nonprofit Keeper of the Word Foundation, which was established to buy and preserve documents of historical significance.

The treasure hunt has lasted for years and left the judge concerned about rising costs eating into money available for creditors. Legal fees in the case total about $400,000 but creditors have recovered only $75,000.

The missing items included an early draft of a Parks book and gold records awarded to Motown artists including The Marvelettes.

Ehrlichman said the value of the missing items is unknown but items previously recovered were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Reed was ordered to surrender the missing items two years ago to satisfy creditors but lawyers discovered the property was missing from Reed’s home in Indian Village during a July visit.

During the bankruptcy case, Reed was accused of shielding assets from creditors by commingling them with the nonprofit. Reed treated the nonprofit like his “personal piggy bank,” U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman wrote in an earlier court filing.

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