George Bascom Sparkman - 19th And 22nd Mayor Of Tampa
Born: September 20, 1855, Dover, Florida
Died: August 31, 1898, Tampa, Florida
First Term: March 22, 1881 - August 14, 1881
Second Term: August 14, 1881 - August 14, 1882
Third Term: August 14, 1882 - August 14, 1883
Fourth Term: July 15, 1887 - March 8, 1888
Born on September 20, 1855, George Bascom Sparkman was the son of Elijah Bird Sparkman and Sarah Ann Mizell Sparkman. He attended local schools, and graduated from the University of Virginia Law School. Upon graduation, he returned to Tampa where he opened a law office with his cousin, Stephen M. Sparkman. He married Mary Kershaw, and the couple had seven children.
Since Mayor Ferris had left office, Matthew Ellison Haynsworth had served as Acting Mayor. On March 22, 1881, a special election was held and George Bascom Sparkman was elected to complete the remainder of Mayor Ferris’s term. A regular, municipal election was held on August 11, 1881, and Sparkman was reelected for another term. In 1881, Mayor Sparkman worked with the Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West Railroad, also known as the JT&KW Railroad, to lay tracks along some of the streets in downtown Tampa. However, the project was never completed because the company lost its assets.
Sparkman was elected for a third term as Mayor of Tampa on July 20, 1882. At the time of his election, Tampa had a population of less than 1,000 citizens. In 1883, the council approved Henry B. Plant’s plans for a railroad. The railroad brought industry and jobs to the area, and by 1885, Tampa’s population had more than doubled to over 2,300 citizens.
In 1884, George Bascom Sparkman was elected as a member of the Town Council, where he served until 1886. During this time, the council addressed many issues related to Tampa’s growth. The increase in population had brought challenges such as the need for new housing, roads, fire protection, and infrastructure. The Board of Trade was organized in 1885 to address the needs of growing businesses. They helped raise money so that Vincente Martinez Ybor could bring his cigar business to Tampa.
On July 15, 1887, Sparkman was again elected Mayor of Tampa, and he became the first mayor serve under the new City of Tampa charter. Under the provisions of an act passed by the State Legislature and approved by the Governor of Florida, the charters of Tampa and North Tampa were abolished and the boundaries of the City of Tampa were expanded. The new City Charter specified that the municipal government was to be administered by a mayor and eleven council members, two elected from each of the four wards, and three elected from the city at-large. The charter also included the election of a City Marshal, City Clerk, Treasurer, and Tax Collector.
Following his time in office, Sparkman served as a Judge of the Sixth Circuit Court from 1893 until 1894. He was a member of the Order of Odd Fellows, as well as the Knights of Pythia. George Bascom Sparkman died in Tampa from yellow fever on August 31, 1898.
Sources for this Biographical Sketch:
Covington, Dr. James W. and Wavering, Debbie Lee, "The Mayors of Tampa: A Brief Administrative History," Tampa, FL: University of Tampa, 1987.
Grismer, Karl H., Tampa: A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, St. Petersburg Printing Company, FL, 1950.
Robinson, Ernest L., History of Hillsborough County, Florida: Narrative and Biographical, The Record Company, St. Augustine, FL, 1928.
Tampa Council Minutes, City of Tampa Archives, Tampa, FL
January 1, 1857 - October 2, 1891 Microfilm Roll # 1