Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 9/28/2009 [Archive]

The Death of a Good Man

The Death of a Good Man

By Martha Randolph Carr

It is startling how much time is being wasted parsing out the motive behind the murder of 51 year old substitute teacher, Bill Sparkman in tones that seem to indicate that some kind of feeble justification exists out there, somewhere.

Sparkman was doing his civic duty as a census taker going door-to-door in rural Clay County, Kentucky, when he disappeared only to be found later hanging from a tree, lynched with the word Fed scrawled into the skin of his chest.

Local police have finally declared it an 'apparent' homicide and said he died of asphyxiation. He died from a hanging and was murdered.

The citizens of Clay County have been quoted as being concerned that this will reflect badly on the county but so far, no one has reported any real remorse over the brutal slaying of a gentle man trying to do the right thing. The silence is deafening.

Now, the media focus appears to be all over the reasons that might have driven a murderer to string up someone and take a sharp object to their skin. The talk has touched on the area being rife with methamphetamines and moonshine, but the real buzz has been about whether or not this is a reaction to the current administration in Washington. Perhaps they were upset over all the government meddling.

This has got to be the low point for the media.

Bill Sparkman was brutally murdered by someone who doesn't value human life and hopefully will be caught and tried in a court of law, which is more than the murderer was capable of offering Sparkman.

It doesn't matter how far we are driven to distraction by the goings-on in Washington or anywhere else for that matter. In America we don't use that as justification to murder each other.

Local residents aren't buying that argument either but are saying the roots go deeper and are tied to poverty, corruption and too much tolerance over the drug trade. The only thing missing from anyone's argument is the plain truth. There are certain boundaries in this country that we decided a long time ago are inviolable and murder is one of them.

This isn't manslaughter where someone was surprised and shot off a round. This isn't an accidental slaying. This is someone dragging what had to be a terrified man to a cemetery, throwing a rope over a branch, putting the noose around his neck and stringing him up. Get outraged over that and demand justice for Bill Sparkman first and talk politics much, much later.

It's as if we've grown so accustomed to all of the chatter and endless pundits on TV that we've forgotten to start with the basics.

The first piece of news should be about who could have killed Bill Sparkman. The second should be why we tolerate nests that are this corrupt within our own country but have long diatribes about foreign governments. The third discussion should center around a plan about how to stop this from happening to anyone else in Clay County, Kentucky. It's not right that this should be tolerated within our borders.

Most of all, however, trying to answer why anyone chose to murder a good man is not the point. Veering toward an argument on politics, town hall meetings or health care is saying there are justifiable reasons to string someone up in the air. The real news is that Bill Sparkman has been murdered and we now have a responsibility to this innocent man to focus on justice for him and his family.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. Email Martha at: or visit

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