Joseph W. Sparks
Unit: 617th Bombardment Squadron of the 477th Composite Group
This text is taken from the Honorable Discharge document sent to us from Joseph W. Sparks
State of Illinois
Ninety-Four General Assembly
House of Representatives
House Resolution No. 240
Offered by Representative Milton Patterson
WHEREAS, During WWII, Joseph W. Sparks answered the call of his country and valiantly served as a member of the 477th Composite Group based at Godman Field, Kentucky; the 477th Composite Group, the first all-Black Bomber-Fighter air squadron in U.S. history, had four squadrons of bomber and fighter airplanes; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Sparks graduated with the first class of African-Americans to be qualified as aerial radio operators at Scott Field Air Base in 1944; he was also in the first class of African-Americans to graduate from aerial gunnery school at the Yuma Arizona Air Force Base in 1944; and
WHEREAS, He went on training flights as a radio operator with First Lieutenant Daniel James Jr. as a member of the 617th Bombardment Squadron at Godman Field, Kentucky, in 1944; Lieutenant James went on to become the first African-American four-star general; he also served with James Y. Carter who went on to serve in the Illinois General Assembly and was Vehicle Commissioner for the City of Chicago, Winston A. Adkins, a police sergeant at 51st and Wentworth in Chicago, A.A. Rayner, a former Chicago alderman and funeral director, and Charles C. Diggs, who became a U.S. Congressman from Michigan; and
WHEREAS, As a radio operator mechanic, Sergeant Sparks operated airborne transmitting and receiving equipment; he sent and received messages using Morse code; he performed in-flight maintenance on equipment and tune adjusted his own equipment; he operated at a rate of 20 words per minute; he also had two 50-caliber machine guns to operate, one on each side of the B-25 bomber; and
WHEREAS, The squadron was initially named the 477th Bombardment Group; the name was changed in June of 1945 to the 477th Composite Group, when the leadership of the group was handed over to the General B.O. Davis, Jr. It was the first and only U.S. Army installation within the continental U.S. to be commanded and staffed completely be African-American personnel; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Sparks went on to work with the Chicago Transit Authority and was honored for 31 years of public service as a bus driver and for his volunteer work in the Englewood Community as Chairman of the 7th Police District Youth Corps; he drove streetcar #7213 Chicago’s last streetcar during the mid-1950’s; therefore, be it
RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NINETY-FOURTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we honor Joseph W. Sparks for his service as a member of the 477th Composite Group during World War II, for his many years of public and community service, and for his efforts to educate Americans on the 477th Composite Group; and be it further
RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution be presented to Mr. Sparks as an expression of our sincerest respect and esteem.
Adopted by the House of Representatives on April 5, 2005.
Signed by Michael J. Madigan, Speaker of the House
*Note: The 617th Bombardment Squadron was one of four Tuskegee Airmen bomber squadrons during WWII that made up the 477th Composite Group. The 477th Composite Group and its assigned 616th, 617th, 618th, and 619th Bombardment Squadrons, never deployed overseas for combat during World War II.
In 2007, the 477th Composite Group became the 477th Fighter Group, bringing with it the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen to Alaska.