Written by: Director Robert Groves
Bill Sparkman was a field interviewer for the Census Bureau who was found dead, hanging from a tree, in Clay County, Kentucky, on September 12, 2009. A memorial for Bill was held on Monday, Oct. 26, a very sad event for all of us at the Census Bureau. I prepared the following remarks for his memorial:
“Bill Sparkman was a colleague to over 6,000 field interviewers throughout the U.S. and 6,000 other staff in the central office of the Census Bureau in D.C. The job that Bill conducted for us is a key part of what is an honorable and important facet of a democracy. He and all his colleagues have the simple goal of producing information that permits the public to judge how the nation is faring. This task is the engine of an informed populace.
“The interviews he conducted over his years as a field representative were combined with many others throughout the country. The information was summarized in key statistical information provided freely to the public about the health and welfare of the population. Through that, we as a people could make our own judgments about whether a change in direction of the country was prudent.
“Bill took an oath to keep that information confidential. That oath of confidentiality and the professionalism that he displayed in his job is the real measure of the success of the Census Bureau because it determines whether the public believes our estimates and trusts the information. Without that credibility the work of our agency has no value.
“Although we may never know for sure, it is very likely that Bill died performing his duties as a Census Bureau interviewer. In that regard, he is a hero to us, one that deserves to be remembered for his contributions to the country. We will never forget him, and we honor his memory.”