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John Sparkman

In office
November 6, 1946 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by George R. Swift
Succeeded by Howell Heflin

Born December 20, 1899
Hartselle, Alabama
Died November 16, 1985 (aged 85)
Huntsville, Alabama
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ivo Sparkman
Alma mater University of Alabama
Religion Methodist
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Unit Student Army Training Corps

John Jackson Sparkman (December 20, 1899 – November 16, 1985) was an American politician from the state of Alabama. A conservative Southern Democrat, Sparkman served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate from 1937 until 1979. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President as Adlai Stevenson's running mate in the 1952 U.S. presidential election. Sparkman High School in Harvest, Alabama and Sparkman School in Somerville, Alabama are named in his honor.


Early life and education

Sparkman was born on a farm near Hartselle, Alabama. He attended the rural schools and helped on the family farm. During World War I, he was a member of the Students Army Training Corps. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1921 and from University of Alabama School of Law in 1923. Sparkman was a founding member of the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha.

Legal career

From left: President Harry S. Truman, Senator Sparkman (1952 Vice Presidential nominee) and Adlai Stevenson II (Governor, 1952 Presidential nominee) in the Oval Office

John Sparkman was admitted to the bar in 1925 and commenced practice in Huntsville. He was an instructor at Huntsville College from 1925 to 1928. A Freemason, he was life member of Helion Lodge #1 in Huntsville. He was also member of the Huntsville Scottish Rite bodies and a recipient of the Knight Commander Court of Honor (KCCH).

Political career

In 1970 Wernher von Braun (right) was honored for his career in Huntsville, Alabama, with the celebration of "Wernher von Braun Day." Among those participating were Sparkman (center) and Alabama Governor Albert Brewer (left).

Sparkman was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1936 election. He was reelected in 1938, 1940, 1942, and 1944, serving in the 75th, 76th, 77th, 78th, and 79th Congresses. In 1946 he served as House Majority Whip. He was reelected in the 1946 House election to the 80th Congress and on the same date was elected to the United States Senate in a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John H. Bankhead II for the term ending January 3, 1949. Sparkman resigned from the House of Representatives immediately following the election and began his Senate term on November 6, 1946. He served until his retirement on January 3, 1979, after not running for reelection in 1978.

In the Senate he was chairman of the Select Committee on Small Business (81st, 82nd, and 84th through 90th Congresses), co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Inaugural Arrangements (86th Congress), chairman of the Committee on Banking and Currency (90th and 91st Congresses), co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Defense Production (91st and 93rd Congresses), Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (92nd and 93rd Congresses), and a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations (94th and 95th Congress).

The 1943 Sparkman Act, allowing women physicians to be commissioned as officers in the armed services, was named for him, after lobbying by Dr. Emily Dunning Barringer.

Sparkman was a representative of the United States to the Fifth General Assembly of the United Nations in 1950.

In 1956, John Sparkman was one of the 19 Southern senators to sign the Southern Manifesto, opposing the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and racial integration.

Despite the fact that Stevenson again became the Democratic presidential nominee in 1956 he was not again his running mate.

He died in Huntsville, Alabama in 1985 of natural causes aged 85 and is interred in Maple Hill Cemetery of Huntsville.

Electoral history

1972 Alabama United States Senatorial Election

John Sparkman (D) (inc.) 62.3%
Winton M. Blount (R) 33.1%

1966 Alabama United States Senatorial Election

John Sparkman (D) (inc.) 60.1%
John Grenier (R) 39%

1960 Alabama United States Senatorial Election

John Sparkman (D) (inc.) 70.2%
Julian Elgin (R) 29.8%

1954 Alabama United States Senatorial Election

John Sparkman (D) (inc.) 82.5%
J. Foy Guin, Jr. (R) 17.5%

1952 United States Presidential Election (Vice President's seat)

Richard Nixon (R) 55.2%
John Sparkman (D) 44.3%
Charlotta Bass (Progressive) 0.2%
Enoch Holtwick (Prohibition) 0.1%

1948 Alabama United States Senatorial Election

John Sparkman (D) (inc.) 84%
John G. Parsons (R) 16%

1946 Alabama United States Senatorial Election

John Sparkman (D) Unopposed

External links

A history of Senator Sparkman's career in the House of Representatives was written in 1990 by Dr. Henry Walker.

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Archibald Hill Carmichael
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 8th congressional district

1937 – 1946
Succeeded by
Robert E. Jones, Jr.
United States Senate
Preceded by
George R. Swift
United States Senator (Class 2) from Alabama
1946 – 1979
Served alongside: J. Lister Hill, James B. Allen,
Maryon Pittman Allen, Donald W. Stewart
Succeeded by
Howell T. Heflin
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Ramspeck
House Majority Whip
Succeeded by
Leslie Cornelius Arends
Preceded by
Edward J. Thye
Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee
1955 – 1967
Succeeded by
George Smathers
Preceded by
A. Willis Robertson
Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee
1967 – 1975
Succeeded by
William Proxmire
Preceded by
J. William Fulbright
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
1975 – 1979
Succeeded by
Frank Church
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Ramspeck
House Democratic Whip
Succeeded by
John William McCormack
Preceded by
Alben W. Barkley
Democratic Party Vice Presidential candidate
Succeeded by
Estes Kefauver


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