May 9, 2021

Pages 810-811
Whole Number 46

A Biographical Sketch Chaplain John William Sparks, whose picture appears on the cover of this issue of the Quarterly, is one of the most distinguished members of The Sparks Family Association. During the several years that he has been a member, he has contributed generously both in financial support and in time. We think it appropriate that he be introduced to the other members of the Association.

Chaplain Sparks was born January 9, 1911, in Washita County, Oklahoma, the son of Thomas Joshua and Lula (Mashburn) Sparks. He was graduated from high school at Rocky, Oklahoma; he received the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939 from Bethel College, at McKenzie, Tennessee. He attended the Cumberland Presbyterian Theological Seminary and received the degree of Bachelor of Divinity in 1942 from the School of Religion at Vanderbilt University. He was ordained by Cherokee Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and has served churches in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

In November, 1942, Chaplain Sparks was called to active duty with the U. S. Army as a. first lieutenant and attended the Chaplain School at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. His first assignment was with the 475th Quartermaster Regiment at Camp Blanding, Florida. From 1944 to 1946 he served in Alaska with transportation units which included duty on the historic Alaska Railroad and a roving assignment from Adak to the Aleutians to Point Barrow. These travels required the use of snow tractors, dog sleds, and flights with the colorful bush pilots.

After a year's service with the Engineer Test Branch in Yuma, Arizona, Chaplain Sparks was transferred to Bremerhaven, Germany, for hospital duty. In October, 1948, he was assigned to the 351st Infantry Regiment in the Free Territory of Trieste where he served for over three years. In December, 1951, he served at Fort Custer, Michigan, as assistant Post Chaplain and Personnel Center Chaplain, later moving to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with the Personnel Center Unit. In September, 1953, he attended the Advanced Course at the U.S. Army Chaplain School.

In January 1954, Chaplain Sparks was transferred to the Far East where he served in Korea and later in Japan. In June, 1956, he reported for duty with the staff and faculty of the U.S. Army Chaplain School, Fort Slocum, New York, where he served for four years. The last eighteen months he served as Senior Instructor and Director of Instruction and finally as Deputy Coimnandant. In August, 1960, he reported for duty as Post Chaplain at Frankfurt, Germany, later becoming Northern Area Conznand Chaplain.

In August, 1963, Chaplain Sparks assumed the duties of Army Chaplain for the five-state Fourth U.S. Army area at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Among his awards and decorations are the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Commendation Ribbon, the TIN Service Medal and the Bronze Star Medal. In June, 1964, Chaplain Sparks was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by his alma mater, Bethel College, for "outstanding service to the church, the nation, and to higher education." He is a member of South Texas fresbytery of the Cumber land Presbyterian Church. In addition to interest and activity in civic and religious affairs, Chaplain Sparks is a 32nd degree Mason.

Chaplain Sparks married Jacqueline Rays of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, daughter of Walter Francis and Cora Grace (Lowey) Hays, on August 26, 1936, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Mrs. Sparks was born in Paducah, Kentucky, on January 24, 1916. They have two children: Alice Jacqueline Sparks, born July 3, 1937, at McKenzie, Tennessee; she married Norman Richard Johansson in 1956 and they have three children, Karen Leslie Johansson, Douglas Kieth Johansson, and Kristine Lee Johansson; Jon Walter Sparks, born October 16, 1949, in Trieste, Italy. Thomas Joshua Sparks, father of Chaplain Sparks, was born March 21, 1877, at Boxley, Newton County, Arkansas. He married Sarah Louisa Mashburn on July 9, 1899, at Huntsville, Arkansas. She was born November 25, 1882, the daughter of William H. Mashburn, Presbyterian clergyman, and Rachel Virginia Johnston.

The parents of Thomas Joshua Sparks were John English and Mary Jane (Grogan) Sparks. John English Sparks was born January 6, 1857, in Boxley, Arkansas, and died in September, 1934. His wife, Mary Jane (Grogan) Sparks, was born January 5, 1857, and died on January 21, 1953, at the age of 96. Both were buried at Dutch Mills, Arkansas.

The parents of John English Sparks were Joshua and Catherine (Edgmon) Sparks. Joshua Sparks was born in 1820 in Tennessee; his wife, Catherine, was born in 1819, also in Tennessee. They were married in Roane County, Tennessee, on March 26, 1843. They moved from Roane County, Tennessee, to Newton County, Arkansas, in 1849 or 1850, where Catherine died in 1858. Joshua married (second) in 1862, Emaline Farmer, who died in 1866. In 1869, Joshua Sparks married (third) Sarah Elizabeth Self. There were children by all three marriages. Joshua Sparks died in Newton County ca. 1880.

Joshua Sparks was a son of Richard and Sarah (Peterson) Sparks. Richard Sparks was born in Virginia in 1781 and died between 1860 and 1870 in Arkansas; Sarah, who was born in 1782, probably in South Carolina, was still living with her son, Joshua, in 1870. Richard and Sarah (Peterson) Sparks were the parents of some twelve children. Chaplain Sparks has been gathering information on their descendants for a number of years, and we hope to publish the results of his research in the near future. [NOTE: See Whole No. 63 at pps. 1164-5 for additional information on Richard and Sarah (Peterson) Sparks.]