Dr. Alton N. Sparks (Sparky) died at home surrounded by his family on April 12, 2022. He was 90 years old. Alton was born in Coke County, Texas, in 1932, to Marion King Sparks and Eula Mae (Walker) Sparks. He was preceded in death by his parents, only siblings Gerald Sparks (brother) and Neta Grace (Sparks) Dobbins (sister), three nephews and one niece. The Sparks family lived in several counties in west Texas when Alton was young until they settled in Mitchell County, Texas where Alton graduated from Colorado City High School in 1950.
He met his wife of 69 years, Dannie Mac Hart Sparks, at Colorado City High School and they married in 1953. After graduation and a brief stint working in the oil fields of west Texas, Alton joined the United States Navy. He served our country from 1951-1955 during the Korean conflict. Upon leaving the navy, he and Dannie with their first two daughters, Tanya Kay and Beverly Lynn, moved to Lubbock, Texas. Alton used the GI Bill to fund his undergraduate education at Texas Tech University. While in Lubbock, another child, Alton N. Sparks, Jr. (Stormy) was born. Alton graduated from Texas Tech University in 1958 with a degree in Agricultural Education. He then entered graduate school and studied entomology at both the University of Arizona and Iowa State University, completing his doctoral degree in 1964 at ISU. Their fourth child, Neta Marie, was born while they were living in Tucson, Arizona.
Alton’s service to the United States Department of Agriculture as a Research Entomologist and administrator stretched over a twenty-six-year period and took the family to Pecos, Texas, Stillwater, Oklahoma and Tifton, Georgia.
He and Dannie moved to Tifton in August 1966 when he became director of the USDA Southern Grains Insect Laboratory. He retired from the USDA in 1989. While serving as a research entomologist he traveled all over the world to conduct and share his research and serve in an advisory capacity to other research institutions and governments. Sparky worked with graduate students throughout his career and held an adjunct faculty position at both the University of Georgia and University of Florida. He also served in many leadership roles in his professional organizations including the Entomological Society of American, Georgia Entomological Society and American Registry of Professional Entomologists.
Alton worked as a New York Life Insurance agent and an adjustor for Crawford Company after his retirement from USDA. He and Dannie also managed and worked their peach and pecan farm in Tifton and he loved to share peaches and pecans with friends and neighbors.
Alton’s hobbies included officiating, coaching community youth teams, construction projects, following his favorite sporting activities and working on their farm. He was a high school football official for over forty years. He also officiated high school basketball and wrestling. He served as a mentor and friend to many area coaches and high school athletes through his officiating activities.
Alton always believed that his greatest legacy would not be in the deeds that he performed while on this earth, but would live on in the family that he left behind.
He is survived by Dannie and their four children: Tanya (Ken) Murphy, Beverly Sparks (Allen Tibbetts), Stormy (Wendy) Sparks and Neta Sparks. Nine grandchildren: Kris (Melissa) Murphy, Scott (Brandy) Murphy, Kyle Murphy, Jordan Sparks, Kaylyn (Cody) Mitchell, Alyssa Sparks,
Talon Sparks, Lyn Roberts (Bradley) Jenkins, and Amanda Roberts (Ty) Cochran. Seven great-grandchildren: Kirsten Murphy, Hayden Murphy, Hannah Grace Murphy, Madeleine Murphy, Patrick Murphy, Katie Sparks, and Josie Monroe Lyon Murphy.
Whether you called him Alton or Sparky, Daddy or Granddaddy, Mr. Sparks or Dr. Sparks, those who knew him best will recognize him and his relationship with others in this quote by Mother Teresa. “You will teach them to fly, but they will not fly your flight. You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream. You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life. Nevertheless, in every flight, in every life, in every dream the print of the way you taught them will remain.”
The Sparks Family requests that in leu of flowers, gifts be made to the Sparks Family Enrichment Fund at the University of Georgia Department of Entomology in memory of Alton N. Sparks, Sr. The fund honors Sparky’s passion for entomology, education, and providing educational enrichment support to students. Donations can be made on line at https://t.uga.edu/7Za or by mailing a check to UGA CAES, 117 Four Towers, Athens, Ga 30602. Please make checks payable to the UGA Foundation and include “Sparks Family Enrichment Fund” in the memo. Gifts are tax deductible.
No service is planned at this time. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.
Albritton funeral Directors is in charge of the arrangements.