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WASHINGTON - Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said Thursday he hopes Congress will act quickly to create a postage stamp to memorialize civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
Postal Service regulations require someone to be dead for 10 years before issuing a commemorative stamp. The only regular exception is for presidents, who must be dead for a year.
Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 and helped galvanize the civil rights movement, died in her Detroit home Oct. 24. She was 92.
"Rosa Parks didn't wait for the racial climate to change in Montgomery, Ala.," said Rush. "Instead, her impatience with inequality changed the course of history, and I'm asking my fellow members of Congress to recognize that her heroic efforts require swift consensus."
Rush announced the bill to create the stamp with other legislators at a news conference. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said the bill, with 137 co-sponsors, has strong bipartisan support.
"We ought to make a difference and carve out an exception for her," Upton said. "Normally, individuals have to be dead 10 years. But Rosa Parks is never going to die in our hearts, in the spirit of Americans around the country."
The last time the House approved a stamp for someone less than a decade after her death was in 1948 for Moina Michael, an advocate for World War I veterans.
Danielle Pace, a fifth-grader at Meridian Public Charter School in Washington, appeared at the news conference and read from her letter urging Congress to create a Rosa Parks stamp.
"Her courage opened the eyes of all the nation," Pace said. "I cannot stress enough the importance of remembering this amazing woman. She was the epitome of a woman who persevered to the end."
After the news conference, about 30 Meridian students held up letters they planned to send to various lawmakers encouraging them to pass Rush's bill.
When asked by one of the students about the likelihood of passage, Rush told him it was "about 95 percent."
After her death, the Senate approved a resolution allowing Parks' body to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, the first woman to have such an honor. Congress also plans to erect a statue of Parks in Statuary Hall.
If the House and Senate approve the stamp, the postmaster general will seek ideas for a design.
"I'm amazed at the number of ways people have found to celebrate, memorialize and show their support for Rosa Parks," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., for whom Parks once worked. "I didn't know it would be this large and this continuing."
(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.