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Thomas J. Sparks

SPARKS, Thomas J. — Among all classes of toilers is demonstrated the fact that some lives are shaped by circumstances, while others overcome circumstances and shape their own lives. To the latter class belongs Thomas J. Sparks, a legal practitioner of Bushnell since 1876, an ex-member of the General Assembly, ex-City Attorney, and prominent Democratic politician. Tens of thousands, born in comparative poverty, as was Mr. Sparks, never emerge from it. From his parents, however, he inherited the best of legacies, health, industry and integrity, and the ability to recognize and grasp a waiting opportunity.

Born in Clinton County, Ind., Mr. Sparks is a son of Joseph and Sarah (Deford) Sparks, natives of Pennsylvania and Ohio, respectively. When Joseph Sparks was twelve years old his family moved to Ohio, where he was apprenticed to a wheelwright, learning a trade which he combined with farming for many years. In 1845 he moved from Ohio to a farm in the vicinity of Ellisville. Fulton County, Ill., where the balance of his lite was spent and where his son, Thomas J., completed his common school education. Longing for a broader life than that of the devotee of agriculture, the lad began at an early age to teach school, that his education might penetrate deeper channels of knowledge through his own ability to meet his tuition. Untiring effort and rigid economy made possible the realization of his hopes, and he entered Lombard College, at Galesburg, Ill., later taking a two years' course at Howes Academy, Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

In the meantime, having developed a compelling interest in law, Mr. Sparks in 1864 began the reading of law with S. Corning Judd, at Lewistown, and, upon being admitted to the bar, removed west to Central City, Neb., where he practiced his profession for six years. Returning to Illinois in 1867, he settled in Bushnell, then a rising town having need of serious minded, purposeful young men, and which, because of the high character of its citizens, promised support and appreciation of his efforts. Thirty-eight years of continuous residence have seen many of his professional dreams realized and even exceeded, for it is doubtful if the economizing law student took into account the public honors which would be accorded him.

At an early stage of his career Mr. Sparks identified himself with the Democratic party, and for years he has been an important factor in its local undertakings. For several years he filled with credit the exacting office of City Attorney, and his election to the Thirty-eighth General Assembly of Illinois resulted in capable representation of the needs and requirements of his district. At Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1871, Mr. Sparks was united in marriage to Agnes Patton, of Wheeling, W. Va., and of this union there are two children, of whom Maud is the wife of Professor W. W. Ernest, of Macomb, Ill., and Ray is a student at the University of Illinois. Socially, Mr. Sparks is connected with the Masonic fraternity. Around his strenuous life he has built a wall of public confidence, and his qualities of mind and heart are such as may well be emulated by the men of a younger generation.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 1006-1007, extracted 30 Jul 2020 by Norma Hass.

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