Detroit entertainment lawyer Gregory Reed had just finished turning a shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Ala., in April 1998 when he noticed a man staring at him from the crowd.
A few moments later, Reed recalled, the man walked up to him and said, "I believe you should have these."
Reed, a longtime lawyer for Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus in 1955 resulted in her arrest and sparked the modern civil rights movement, said he glanced at the documents, but didn't realize what he was holding until a few minutes after the man had disappeared into the crowd.
Reed said the man had given him the Dec. 1, 1955, fingerprints and booking cards that the Montgomery police filled out the day they arrested Parks. The documents contain Parks' signature, the names of the arresting officers, her husband's name and their address.
The man told Reed he had found the documents in the trash behind the police station, apparently in the 1970s or 1980s. Parks died in 2005 at age 92.
On Sept. 28, the documents will go on display in a National Treasures exhibit at Epcot Center at Disney World in Florida. The exhibit will include memorabilia of famous Americans including Mark Twain, Jackie Robinson, George Washington Carver, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison.
Reed, through the Keeper of the Word Foundation that he founded in 1996, loaned the documents to Disney World for the exhibit.
Disney approached museums and foundations across the country to find artifacts, said Rick Sylvain, a spokesman for Disney World.
Reed said the Parks' fingerprint card and arrest sheet have been displayed publicly only once -- for about 1,000 people who attended a speech Reed gave in January at Michigan State University.
Reed said he counts himself fortunate to have received the artifacts and share them with others: "There's an obligation to take note of this moment and time in American history."