Whole Number 6
Ex Gov. CHAUNCEY SPARKS, one of Alabama's best-known bachelors, has quietly slipped into the role of elder statesman here in his old hometown of Eufaula by the Chattahoochee River. The graying, bespectacled Barbour County lawyer with the homespun manner told a newsman in an interview recently that he no longer has any political ambitions. "I'm 68 years old," he pointed out, "and that's no age for a man to start thinking about running for office again. Anyway, I'm glad to be a private citizen."
Alabama's chief executive from 1943 to 1947, Sparks is still known as "governor" to many friends of Barbour County, and he likes to reminisce about his days in Montgomery. His record at the helm of the state is highlighted by such accomplishments as the inauguration of a farm-to-market road program; establishment of regional farm markets and regional livestock coliseums; the foundation of recreation programs along with parks, playgrounds and public fishing lakes, and the liquidation of Alabama's bonded indebtedness. The former governor is proud, too, of his part in a successful fight to bring equal freight rates to the South.
Sparks remains a deep-dyed democrat, although he has met Dwight Eisenhower and personally admires the president. He is anything but ashamed of the fact that, unlike many Southerners, he came out openly for Adlai Stevenson and the Democratic Party in 1952. "I'm a New Dealer and proud of it," says Sparks. He favors the New Deal program of higher wages for the working man.
Nowadays, Chauncey Sparks is content with running his law practice in a spacious, highceilinged office here and managing his Barbour County cattle farm, But he takes great interest in reading about the affairs of Alabama and the nation and ventures to predict the Democrats will win the 1956 presidential election.
He was born October 8, 1884, on a farm fourteen miles west of Eufala.His grandfather, Samuel Sparks, and wife migrated from Muscogee County, Georgia, to Barbour County in the early 1880's.His father, George W. Sparks married Sarah E. Castellow. To this union were born four children and three are still living-- the governor, H. C. Sparks, and Mrs. Louise Fleweller. Sparks' father died when Chauncey was three years old. His mother bought a farm in Quitman County, Georgia, and reared the children there.
"I attended old Woodland Academy in Quitman County" Sparks recalls. "It's now a cotton house. You might say I went to school at Woodland until I was too old to learn any more there."
From public school, young Chauncey turned to college. He attended Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1907. "I became a school teacher," he says. I taught at Joe Terrell School near Shellman. Incidentally, that school is named for a governor of Georgia. Later I taught at Omaha, Ga., in Stewart County.
Sparks returned to Mercer in 1910, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in November 1910. He immediately started practicing law in Eufaula.
"The prohibition movement put me in politics," the former governor said. "My interest started in the prohibition days of 1918. I was strong for ratification of the 19th amendment and ran for the Legislature for the purpose of voting for the amendment's ratification. I was elected and completed my four-year term. I then resolved never to dabble in politics again. However, in 1930, I was persuaded to offer for the legislature again. I got good and wet in politics that time."
Sparks became a leader of the minority group of the Alabama Legislature. In 1938, the Eufaula attorney ran for governor and was second man in the race. Frank M. Dixon was elected. In 1942, Sparks again tossed his hat into the race for governor and was elected.
He makes his home in Eufaula with his sister, Mrs. Fleweller. "I'm happy here with all my old friends," says Sparks. "You know, some of the best people in the world live right here in Barbour County."