John P. Parrish, 88; Figure In '60s Fairfax Bribe Case

An undated photo shows John P. Parrish, former Fairfax County supervisor, who was convicted in a bribery and zoning scandal amid the rush to develop land in the 1960s.
An undated photo shows John P. Parrish, former Fairfax County supervisor, who was convicted in a bribery and zoning scandal amid the rush to develop land in the 1960s. (Family Photo)
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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24, 2008

John P. Parrish, 88, a former Fairfax County supervisor who was convicted of accepting a bribe in a 1960s zoning scandal, died after a heart attack March 30 at the Aarondale Retirement and Assisted Living Center in Springfield.

Mr. Parrish served nine months of a two-year federal sentence on two counts of conspiracy for accepting $5,250 in stock in exchange for his vote to rezone land for the Bradlick Shopping Center in Annandale. He was acquitted in another federal bribery case and a third case was thrown out by the judge.

Mr. Parrish maintained his innocence throughout the trial, asserting that the stock was an interest-free loan that he never attempted to repay. The episode cost Mr. Parrish his part-time, $7,500 post on the county board, his law license and his participation as a public official.

He was one of 15 developers and Fairfax County officials indicted in the multiple-case corruption probe that resulted in massive change in the county's rezoning practices, and Mr. Parrish was among the eight who were convicted. Zoning and land development were major issues in Northern Virginia in the 1960s, as the county board wrestled with proposals for construction of high-rise offices and commercial property.

After he was released from prison in 1969, Mr. Parrish worked for the Audubon Estates mobile home park in Alexandria, renting and selling trailers, said his nephew, Phillip Parrish. That park had been involved in the scandal as well, with two other county officials convicted on bribery conspiracy charges based on their votes to rezone 83 acres for the trailer park.

Mr. Parrish later worked as an investigator for a title company and construction company until he retired in 1985.

Born in Washington, John Poindexter Parrish was a lifelong resident of Fairfax County. He graduated from the old Lee Jackson High School. During World War II, he served in the Navy on destroyers in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. He graduated from George Washington University and its law school shortly after the war. He practiced law in Alexandria and Springfield.

Mr. Parrish won the Democratic primary in 1955 and unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Appointed to a vacant seat on the board in 1960, he was reelected by voters in the Mount Vernon district in 1963. He became chairman of the board in 1965, on the promise to use a kitchen timer to expedite the long-winded meetings.

The shopping center at Backlick and Braddock roads was one of a series of controversial rezoning matters that the supervisors dealt with in 1961, 1962 and 1963. It was rezoned from single-family residential on a 4 to 3 vote, with Mr. Parrish voting in the majority, after the county's planning commission and its staff recommended against it. Prosecutors said Mr. Parrish accepted a check from a developer three days before the vote, and it was intended to be used to purchase 1,000 shares of stock in the shopping center.

The first indication of the investigation into bribery allegations became public in April 1966 when Mr. Parrish and his wife asked a federal court to bar the Internal Revenue Service agents from presenting evidence gathered during a two-year investigation of them to a grand jury. A month later, the breadth of the three-year investigation resulted in front-page headlines.

His wife of 46 years, Frances "Alice" Richmond Parrish, died in 1994.

Survivors include two brothers, Matthew Denwood Parrish of Rockford, Ill., and James Sherwood Parrish of Stafford; and two sisters, Marion Parrish Seildl of Peyton, Colo., and Nancy Parrish Posey of Alexandria.

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