May 9, 2021
Whole Number 52
126.96.36.199 HARRY M. SPARKS
by Paul E. Sparks
188.8.131.52 Dr. Harry M. Sparks, Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, possesses a rich background of experience for the leadership of approximately 30,000 teachers and administrators who serve the educational needs of more that 780,000 pupils in his native state. He is a firm believer in the American system of public education which provides equal educational opportunities for every individual, but at the same time he believes the schools have an obligation to place such demands on each individual that he must work up to his potential.
Dr. Sparks was born in Rockcastle County, Kentucky, son of 62.6.2 Robert Absalom and Lena Bentley Sparks; grandson of 62.6 Absalom and Susan Ann Turley Sparks (see p. 935 of The Sparks Quarterly, Marriage Bonds of Madison County, Kentucky); and greatgrandson of 62. James and Matilda Sparks (see p. 228 of The Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 18, Census of Laurel County, Kentucky). Harry was educated in the public schools of Rockcastle County; received his Bachelor's degree from Transylvania College and earned his Master of Arts and Doctor of Education degrees at the University of Kentucky. During World War II he was a lieutenant commander in the Navy.
He began his teaching career in 1930 and has been teacher, principal, superintendent, and college department head as well as coach and referee. His career has taken him all over Kentucky from Greenup County in the east to Graves County in the west, 340 miles apart as the crow flies.
Sandwiched in or concurrent with these positions were numerous offices in local education organizations climaxed by the presidency of the Kentucky Education Association in 1959. The teaching profession and the public have recognized his many services to education by bestowing upon him almost every honor available to an educator in Kentucky.
Dr. Sparks is in great demand as an after-dinner speaker, a special occasion speaker or just a plain speaker. He has a great capacity for liking people-and making them like him. He is active in church work and for seven years was Sunday School Superintendent of the Murray (Kentucky) Methodist Church.
Dr. and Mrs. Sparks (the former Lois Ogden Stiles) have three children:
184.108.40.206.1 Harry M. Sparks, Jr., a student of architecture at the University of Cincinnati;
220.127.116.11.2 Phillip Stiles Sparks, a student at Berlin University, Germany; and
18.104.22.168.3 Susan Nunnelley Sparks, a student at Murray (Kentucky) State College.
He has three brothers:
22.214.171.124 Alfred Bentley Sparks, Conago Park, California;
126.96.36.199 William J.Sparks and
188.8.131.52 Robert Absalom Sparks of Lexington, Kentucky, and one sister,
184.108.40.206 Margaret Sparks; married to FNU Craig, also of Lexington.
Dr. and Mrs. Sparks live in Frankfort, Kentucky, during his term of office as Superintendent of Public Instruction.
(Editor's Note: The great-grandfather of Dr. Harry M. Sparks was 62. James Sparks. James was born ca. 1802 or 1803 in Virginia and married Matilda MNU ca. 1825. On the 1830 and 1840 censuses he was living in Harlan County, Kentucky, but in 1850 and 1860 he was living with his family in Laurel County, Kentucky.
In 1880, James Sparks was still in Laurel County, living with his daughter, Matilda. He was an attorney-farmer and served as the representative from Harlan County in the Kentucky Legislature in 1845. James Sparks and his wife Matilda were the parents of the following children:
62.1 Calvin Sparks, born ca. 1826; he married Esther Green.
62.2 Elizabeth Sparks, born ca. 1828; she married Caleb Catching.
62.3 Rebecca Sparks, born ca. 1830; she was a school teacher.
62.4 Martha Sparks, born ca. 1832; she married Wesley Johnson.
62.5 Burton Sparks, born ca. 1834.
62.6 Absalom Sparks, born ca. 1836; he married (first) Elizabeth Miller in 1856; she died in 1861. He married (second) Susan Ann Turley in 1867.
62.7 Nancy Sparks, born ca. 1838; she was a school teacher.
62.8 James Sparks, born in 1840; he married Hila Moore.
62.9 Mary Ann Sparks, born ca. 1843 (twin of Matilda)
62.10 Matilda Sparks, born ca. 1843 (twin of Mary Ann); she married FNU Bible.
Conjecture places the great-great-grandfather of Dr. Sparks as Absalom Sparks who was in Harlan County in 1820 and who served on a jury there in 1829. The 1820 census of Harlan County gives Absalom Sparks and wife as over 45 years of age, thus born prior to 1775. Also listed on the census are two males--one born 1802-1804 and the other born 1804-1810 and three females--one born 1804-1810, the other born 1794-1804.
Absalom Sparks does not appear on the 1830 census of Harlan County, but James Sparks, born 1800-1810, is listed. Living with James Sparks are one male (probably a son) born 1825-1830 and two females (probably daughters) born 1825-1830.
Also listed in the household of James Sparks on the 1830 census was one male adult, born 1800-1810, and four female adults, born 1800-1810. It is natural to assume that this is the family of Absalom Sparks and that living with James Sparks was a brother and three sisters. Absalom Sparks, the father, must have died between 1820 and 1830. This remains to be proved, however.
It is also interesting to note that on January 5, 1801, an Absalom Sparks married Elizabeth McQuown in Washington County, Virginia. Since James Sparks was born in Virginia and since he named his eldest daughter Elizabeth, these might be the great-great-grand-parents of Dr. Harry M. Sparks.)