One of the oldest-known Mardi Gras Indians passes away

One of the oldest-known Mardi Gras Indians passes away

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - One of the oldest-known Mardi Gras Indian has died, according to The Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame.

Big Chief Thomas "Tom" Sparks, Sr. of the Yellow Jackets died Tuesday,at home surrounded by his family, according to the report.

Sparks was born in 1932, and was considered a New Orleans treasure.

"When I seen them, I was right behind them," he remembers. His childhood curiosity in the culture was also sparked by the fact that his mother was a full-blooded Native American of the Cherokee nation. "That's how I got started in it," he says adding that she didn't approve. "She couldn't stop me. I was gone." - Off Beat Magazine, 2015

In 1947, Sparks became the flagboy of the Bumble Bee Hunters and stayed with the tribe until he went into the military to serve in the Korean War, according to the report. The gang came out of the 7th Ward and the Chief remembers meeting now-legendary Indians and gangs like Allison "Tootie" Montana's father, Alfred, who pulled the Monogram Hunters as well as Black Benny and Brother Tillman.

In addition to participating in the Mardi Gras Indian tradition for over 70 years, he was a devoted father, loving husband, master carpenter, member of the Masons and a Korean era Army Veteran, according to the release.

Sparks was also an Avian Fancier, which is a racing pigeon handler, who constructed custom lofts, a passion he shared with fellow Mardi Gras Indian Big Chiefs Eugene "Junior" Thomas, Jr., White Eagles (deceased) and Clarence "Delco" Dalcour, Creole Osceolas.

Sparks built his home in New Orleans East in the 1970s and rebuilt it  after Hurricane Katrina. The original Mississippi River Bridge, Super Dome, and Morial Convention Center are among the many notable projects he worked on during his long stellar career as a master carpenter, according to The Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame.

He was the recipient of many awards and honors, including recognition by the US Senate, Louisiana Legislature, New Orleans City Council and the Masons, according to the report.

Sparks was also the recipient of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame's Crystal Feather and award for masking over 50 years.

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