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Alabama Governors

Chauncey Sparks

photo of Ala. Governor Chauncey Sparks

 


1943-1947

 

Chauncey Sparks served as Alabama's governor from January 19, 1943, to January 20, 1947. He was born in Barbour County, Alabama, on October 8, 1884, to Georgia natives, 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 his 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 state 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 he defeated James E. Folsom and Chris Sherlock to win the governor's seat. His election was secured by the death in March 1942 of Bibb Graves who was seeking an unprecedented third term as governor.

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 Medical College was established in Birmingham during the Sparks administration and a school of forestry was opened at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn). 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.

 

Sparks continued both Dixon's fight against federal programs or laws that would alter race relations and the ongoing war against freight rate discrimination. Also during his 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.

 

Called the "Barbour County Bourbon" by his critics, Sparks proved to be a competent administrator. He was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1950 by Gordon Persons. Chauncey Sparks devoted the rest of his life to his private law practice in Eufaula where he died on November 6, 1968.


Authorities:
Alabama Official and Statical Register, 1931.
Owen, Marie Bankhead. The Story of Alabama: A History of the State, 1949.
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama, 1975.