Poet, writer and literary critic Dorothy Parker was a founding member of the Algonquin Roundtable. Known for her caustic wit, Parker was an outspoken proponent of libertarianism and civil rights.
In 1967, at age 73, Parker died of a heart attack in a New York City residential hotel. She bequeathed her state to Martin Luther King, Jr. Following the assassination of the civil rights leader the following year, Parker’s estate, and the literary rights to her work, passed on to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Parker was cremated, and left no instructions for the disposition of her ashes. They remained unclaimed at Ferncliff Crematory in New York for six years. In 1973 the crematory sent the ashes to Parker’s lawyer, Paul O’Dwyer, who kept them in a filing cabinet in his office.
After they remained unclaimed for 21 years, NAACP retrieved the ashes from O’Dwyer in 1988 and created a memorial garden at the northern side of its national headquarters. NAACP continues to receive royalties from Parker’s literary works to this day.
The marker reads:
Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested, ‘Excuse my dust’. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988.
4805 Mt. Hope Drive
GPS: N 39° 20.653’, W 076° 42.550’