|41st Governor of Alabama|
January 19, 1943 – January 20, 1947
|Lieutenant||Leven H. Ellis|
|Preceded by||Frank M. Dixon|
|Succeeded by||James E. Folsom, Sr.|
October 8, 1884|
Barbour County, Alabama
|Died||November 6, 1968
George Chauncey Sparks (October 8, 1884 – November 6, 1968), known as Chauncey Sparks, was a Democratic American politician who was the 41st Governor of Alabama from 1943 to 1947. Alabama governors at the time could not serve consecutive terms so Sparks left office without seeking reelection. In 1950, Sparks ran unsuccessfully for reelection as governor.
Life and career
He was born in Barbour County, Alabama, the son George Washington and Sarah E. (Castello) Sparks. After the death of his father when Chauncey was two years old, the family returned to Quitman County, Georgia where he attended school and helped with the family farm. Sparks graduated from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia in 1907 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and received his law degree in 1910. He passed the Alabama State Bar exam and opened a law practice in Eufaula, Alabama that same year.
In 1911, Sparks was appointed judge of the inferior court of Barbour County by Governor Emmet O'Neal, a position he held until 1915. He served as a representative in the Alabama Legislature from 1919–1923 and 1931–1939. A prominent Democrat, Sparks served as secretary of the Barbour County Democratic Executive Committee from 1914 to 1918. He also served as a member of the board of trustees of the Department of Archives and History, representing the 3rd Congressional District.
Sparks' first bid for governor of Alabama was in 1938 when he was defeated by Frank M. Dixon.
In 1942 Sparks defeated James E. Folsom and Chris Sherlock to win the governor's seat.
During his administration, Sparks had to contend with the effects of a wartime economy and the dismantling of war-geared programs at the conclusion of World War II. The massive growth of industry in Alabama during the war resulted in numerous labor problems, making it necessary to re-establish the state Labor Department. Sparks achieved particularly noteworthy gains for education by doubling state appropriations and lengthening the seven-month school term to eight months. The University of Alabama School of Medicine (now The University of Alabama at Birmingham) was established in Birmingham, Alabama and a school of forestry was opened at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). Due to his agricultural background, Sparks took a special interest in aiding the state's agricultural programs. This included increased appropriations as well as the establishment of several new farm experiment stations under the auspices of Alabama Polytechnic Institute's Agricultural College.
Also during Sparks' administration, a constitutional amendment was passed requiring the state legislature to convene every two years instead of every four years. One of the his greatest achievements, however, was his success in reducing the state debt by 25 percent.
Sparks was an outspoken opponent of any "federal encroachments" on what he perceived as states rights issues, especially regarding race relations, having pledged during his election campaign to "keep the federal government's nose out of Alabama business." He believed in "absolute segregation" and said the Alabama Democratic Party should "do everything necessary to maintain an all-white party."
During his administration Alabama voters approved the Boswell Amendment, which dramatically cut back on how many black people in Alabama could vote. Sparks had campaigned heavily for the amendment, saying it was needed to prevent "a flood of Negroes" from registering to vote as a result of recent Federal court rulings.
In response to nationwide protests over the kidnapping and gangrape of Recy Taylor, an African American woman from Abbeville, Sparks "reluctantly agreed to launch an investigation" to keep the Federal government from becoming involved. Even though the six men who raped Taylor admitted to authorities what they'd done, two all-white grand juries subsequently declined to indict them. In 2011, the Alabama House of Representatives apologized on behalf of the state "for its failure to prosecute her attackers."
Sparks was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1950 by Gordon Persons. Sparks devoted the rest of his life to his private law practice in Eufaula where he died on November 6, 1968.
Gov. Chauncy Sparks House
Gov. Chauncy Sparks House
|Location||257 Broad St., Eufaula, Alabama|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architectural style||Greek Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||72000157|
|Added to NRHP||June 28, 1972|
The Gov. Chauncy Sparks House was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
- "Chauncey Sparks (1943-47)" by Harvey H. Jackson, The Encyclopedia of Alabama, accessed Dec. 24, 2012.
- McGuire, Danielle L. (2010). At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance- A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. Random House., p. 119-125.
- Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South by John Egerton, UNC Press Books, 1994, page 391.
- "'Morally repugnant': Alabama issues apology for its treatment of black woman gang raped by six white men in 1944," The Daily Mail, March 30, 2011.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
Frank M. Dixon
|Governor of Alabama
James E. Folsom, Sr.