April 26, 2021
Whole Number 16
Paul Sparks - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
by Paul E. Sparks
(Editor's note: The following sketch was written by Paul upon the request of the editor to accompany his picture which appeared on the cover of the September, 1955, issue of the Quarterly. It was received too late, however, to be included, but because a number of members of the Association have requested more information about our President, we are pleased to include this interesting record in the present issue.)
I was born January 17, 1910, at the head of Morgan's Creek in Lawrence County, Kentucky. Our post office was Yatesville, two miles away. We lived a few hundred yards down the creek from my paternal grandparents and to 'go up' to Grandpa's was an exciting adventure--and a reward for good behavior.
Events, worthy of recall to my contemporaries of eastern Kentucky, which I enjoyed were: cane-strippings, molasses-making, corn-shuckings, bean-stringings, and taffy-pullings. These were practical affairs, as well as social occasions. The oldsters came to help, to gossip, and to criticize the young; the young came to help, to gossip, and to criticize the old. All of these affairs were great moments in my young, impressionable life.
My father, James B. Sparks, was a man of considerable ambition. He was a candidate for county political offices on two occasions, but, being a Democrat in a normally Republican county, he suffered defeat both times. He then decided to move to a coal mining village in Pike County, Kentucky, but my mother persuaded him to leave the mining field and go to Akron, Ohio. There, in 1922, my mother passed away, and I returned with my brother and sisters to live with. my paternal grandparents on Morgan's Creek.
From the year I returned to my Grandfather, Colby Sparks, to the present I have been greatly interested in the SPARKS family, and it is to my Grandfather I give all the credit for the intense effort I have put into this most fascinating hobby.
On June 3, 1951, Colby Sparks passed away at Louisa, Kentucky, at the age of 93. He was born September 22, 1857, at Mount Savage, Kentucky, in Carter County. Long before his passing I had obtained from him the names of his people--for he was possessed of a most remarkable memory and a keen interest in his family. His father, Hugh S. Sparks, had been a collier in the embryonic steel industry in eastern Kentucky when the War Between the States began. On October 19, 1861, Hugh Sparks joined the Fifth Regiment Kentucky Mounted Infantry, Confederate States Army, at Prestonsburg.
In January 1862, the Confederates, under General Humphrey Marshall, met the Union forces under Colonel James A. Garfield at Middle Creek, Kentucky. The skirmish was a draw, but the Confederates withdrew, and many of them returned to their homes. One of my grandfather's earliest memories was that of sleeping with his father high upon a mountain side on a snowy night, and then helping his mother drag wood down the slope to hide her tracks when she brought breakfast to her husband-soldier. Hugh Sparks's army career, however, was doomed to an end, for in September, 1862, he was captured by Union soldiers in Lawrence County, Kentucky, and taken to Camp Chase, Ohio, where he was imprisoned. Subsequently, he was taken to Cairo, Illinois, placed aboard the steamer Emerald, and taken to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he was exchanged on November 1, 1862. No later official records refer to him, nor does anyone we have contacted have any definite word of him.
I received most of my grammar school education in the one-room school on Morgan's Creek--a school, by the way, which is still in existence. I attended Louisa High School at the county seat and was graduated there in 1927. Two years of pre-engineering followed at Akron University, Akron, Ohio, but in 1932 I returned to eastern Kentucky and enrolled at Morehead State College, Morehead, Kentucky. After graduating in 1933, I returned to my home county and taught in the high schools at Webbville and Elaine. Then in 1935, I came to Louisville to teach in the public schools.
In 1938 I received my Master of Arts degree from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and the following year I was appointed principal of Field School in Louisville. In 1942, I entered the Army as a private, but received a commission as second lieutenant in the Air Corps in August of that year at Camp Wolters, Texas. After tours of duty at Maxwell Field, Alabama, Ellington Field, Texas, Randolph Field, Texas, I finally settled down at Selman Field, Louisiana, where I spent three years in training navigators. I was discharged from the service in February, 1946, at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I returned, of course, to Louisville--and to my school work.
In 1932, I met Mary Sue Miller, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Miller, of Morehead, Kentucky, and we were married in November, 1933. We are the parents of a 12-yearold son, Robert.
I am an Episcopalian, member of Crescent Hill Masonic Lodge, member of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, member of Phi Delta Kappa honorary educational fraternity, a Jeffersonian Democrat, and a past president of the Louisville Principals Club.
(Editor's note: For more information on Paul's ancestors see the December, 1955, issue of the Quarterly, pp. 97-104.)