March 10, 2020
Whole Number 53
CLAUDE E. SPARKS
Editor and Publisher of The Franklin County Times
On the cover of this issue of the Quarterly we are privileged to publish the pictures of three distinguished gentlemen, one of whom is Claude E. Sparks, Editor and Publisher of The Franklin County Times in Russeilville, Alabama. On February 11, 1966, at a meeting of the Alabama Press Association in Birmingham, Fred LePell, Director of the Public Relations Administration, of U.S. Steel, presented to Claude E. Sparks and Roswell Falkenberry (Editor and Publisher of The Selma Times-Journal) the "Journalist of the Year" Awards, This was the second time such awards had been given. Sparks and Falkenberry were presented plaques in recognition of their outstanding service to their communities, the state, and the nation.
A native of Jonesboro, Arkansas, Claude E. Sparks is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He came to Russellville in 1953 after working for the Jonesboro (Arkansas) Evening Sun, the Blytheville (Arkansas) Courier-News, and the Marshall (Texas) News-Messenger.
Without knowing it at the time, when Mr. Sparks came to Russellville in 1953 he was actually returning to the home of his ancestors. He had known that his greatgrandfather had been born near Florence, Alabama, but no one in his family had maintained a family record. In 1964, Mr. Sparks learned of the Sparks Family Association, joi.ned, and soon discovered that he was actually living within five miles of the spot where his great-great- great-grandparents, John and Mollie Sparks, were buried. The photograph of the stone marking their graves in the Sparks Family Cemetery near Russellville reproduced on page 962 was taken recently by Mr. Sparks, as was also the stone of their son, William Sparks. (John and Mollie Sparks and their descendants are the subject of the article beginning on page 960 of this issue of the Quarterly.)
Mr. Sparks's great-grandfather, Isaac Newton Sparks (called Newt), was born June 17, 1848. In early boyhood he left Alabama and moved with his widowed mother and brothers and sisters to Hardin County, Tennessee. Then in 1860, with his mother and brothers John, Jim, Joe, and Bob, he moved to Arkansas by ox cart. Mr. Sparks has written as follows regarding his great-grandfather:
"They stopped to live at Smithville in Lawrence County on Coopers Creek where they lived during the Civil War. All of the above-named brothers served in the Confederate Army except Isaac Newton, who was too young. Bob was killed at Shiloh and Joe was shot in the shoulder at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He returned home, developed gangrene and died at Smithville. He probably is buried at Old Bethel Cemetery near Denton, Arkansas. John was a cook in the Confederate Army.
"Left behind in Hardin County, Tennessee, was a sister who married FNU Hulen. His first name is not known in my family, but it is reported that her descendants still live near Savannah, Tennessee.
"Isaac Newton Sparks married Mary Street and moved to Sharp County, Arkansas, near Poughkeepsie. They had one daughter, Mary, who later married John Justice and then to W. G. Lewsaw. She had children by both marriages. Mary Street Sparks died at the birth of her daughter. Isaac Newton Sparks then married Charity Victoria Goff, who is believed to have been one-quarter Indian. She and Isaac Newton are buried in the church cemetery near their home place. Photographs were baked into the tombstones of both and the likeness is still good today.
"To Isaac Newton and Charity Victoria Sparks was born Joseph Columbus Sparks on February 16, 1880. I was the first grandson of Joseph Columbus and was born his birthday, February 16, 1929. Joseph Columbus married Etta Louella Miller, daughter of Henry Scott Miller of Sharp County. They moved across the field, built a house at the community sometimes called "Push," and were quite active in the community as farmers. He was a fine blacksmith and his shop was a delight to me in my childhood.
"At one time in this community, Joseph Columbus Sparks and my father operated the only repair service for automobiles in the area, sold the gasoline, served as carpenters and builders and performed a number of services. My father served as barber, both on occasion served as rural undertaker in time of emergency and my grandmother operated the community's 'central' telephone system. My grandfather was known to pull teeth in this remote community, which was miles from a doctor or dentist during many periods of time. I have witnessed my grandfather pull a tooth while I was a child. He bid the sufferer 'be seated' in a cane-bottom chair by the fireplace, took his forceps from a small trunk and hauled out the aching tooth.
"This community is still very remote and the homeplace was sold when Joseph Columbus died several years ago. He and my grandmother are buried next to Isaac Newton and Charity. My grandfather acquired some hill land and cattle, but was not a particu larly good farmer. He liked saw mills and machinery. He lived his entire life in a house 500 yards from his birthplace."