Elvin Lee Sparks, Jr.
Dr. E. L. Sparks, Jr., known to everyone as Sparky, passed away peacefully at home on Friday, May 1, 2020. His wife of nearly 70 years, Thomasine, and his daughter Cathy, were at his side. His son Flint, who lives in Hawaii, was present via online video.
Sparky was born on March 16, 1928, in Caledonia, Arkansas to Elvin Lee Sparks and Golda Dingler Sparks. He had two older sisters, Nina Sparks Dubose and Merle Cloteen Sparks Hornsby. The Sparks family moved to San Marcos, Texas when he was as a very young child, and then later to Austin, Texas where he grew up, graduating from Austin High School in 1946. After graduation he entered the Marine Corps where he served until 1948. He then entered Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, graduating in 1952. He was a celebrated college athlete and during his college years he met a fellow student and drum majorette, Thomasine Perry of Luling, Texas. They were married on June 10, 1950. This June would have been their 70th anniversary. Their first child, Thomas Flint Sparks, was born in December of 1951 and the second, Cathy Ann Sparks, was born in February of 1957. Cathy’s son and Sparky’s only grandson, Jacob Luker-Sparks, was born on April 15, 1993. Jacob currently lives in Denton, Texas.
Sparky was a public-school teacher and coach in Luling, Texas from 1952 until 1955 when he then went to work for Humble Oil and Refining Company, now Exxon. He progressed from working in retail sales into marketing during his tenure with Exxon. During this portion of his career the family lived in Luling, San Antonio, Brownsville and Corpus Christi before Sparky left the company in 1964.
Sparky then chose to pursue a lifelong dream to study Psychology, returning to graduate school at Texas A&I University in Kingsville (now a branch of the A&M system) receiving his MA in 1965. He joined the teaching faculty at A&I and continued his graduate studies at The University of North Texas and then at East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University—Commerce, graduating with an Ed.D. in 1972. He taught as an outstanding and beloved professor in the Department of Psychology at Texas A&I until his retirement in 1991.
Sparky was always active in civic life and education. He was a lifelong member of the Masonic Lodge and a member of the York Rite and Shrine. In 2018 he was honored by Lodge #343 in San Marcos for 60 years as a Mason. His career in education led him to being elected to the Kingsville ISD School Board where he served several terms. He also served at the state level as a member of the Texas Association of School Boards. A cowboy at heart, he was the faculty sponsor for the Texas A&I Rodeo club. Later he would rise through the ranks to become the national president of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. Following retirement and a move to San Marcos from Kingsville, Sparky and Tommie volunteered at the Central Texas Medical Center in outpatient surgery for 15 years.
Later in life, as a result of a personal spiritual renewal through the Walk to Emmaus program, Sparky began volunteering to assist in the Emmaus weekends to extend this important experience to others. Eventually he moved into working tirelessly with the Kairos Prison Ministry, a Christian faith-based ministry that addresses the spiritual needs of incarcerated men, women, youth, their families and those who work with them. He volunteered in these programs until he could no longer do so due to his health and travel limitations. He and Tommie remained devoted members of Martindale United Methodist Church until his death.
Sparky and Tommie were known as dedicated mentors to their students and many young people who looked to them for guidance. They could also be counted on to always be the life of the party. Their partnership as educators, parents, friends to so many, and as true visions on the dance floor will be remembered by everyone who knew them.
A Celebration of Life honoring Sparky will be held at a later date when we can once again gather safely.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Martindale United Methodist Church, PO Box 552, Martindale, TX 78655.
Arrangements in care of Pennington Funeral Home, 323 N. Comanche, San Marcos, Texas 78666.