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Tom McEwen

The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.

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So long, Lamar, so long

Posted Jan 7, 2010 by Tom McEwen

Updated Jan 7, 2010 at 06:12 PM

I don’t ever remember the late Lamar Sparkman making a deadline. 

He was always late whether it was for the old Tampa Times, the afternoon newspaper in Tampa, or the Tribune, the morning newspaper.  We knew he was going to be late with his cartoon work and planned for it.  Occasionally, it never got in.

I don’t remember Lamar Sparkman working a complete cartoon without a misspelled word. Though he prided himself on being a graduate of the University of Florida and Plant High School, he couldn’t spell a lick even to the last and yet through all of the years of newspapering I have never dealt with a man of such drive and sincerity, nor with such special talent he had with the cartoons that were so poignant and humorous. Indeed, Lamar was such a rare individual that Augusta National, home of the Masters, commissioned him to paint settings and scenes at that great golf tournament. He had the freedom of the clubhouse during his last years at Augusta. 

Lamar died at 88 the other day leaving a wonderful family legacy, his great works, and otherwise unchartered reporting for the sports cartoon world.

In 1977, I was hired by Bennett DeLoach to be his Sports Editor at the old Tampa Times.  I came over from St. Pete.  Lamar Sparkman was a jewel on the old Times staff, working with Sports Editor, Bob Frick.  He was their best sports commodity. I asked DeLoach permission to keep Sparkman as the cartoonist, and he approved it, though the Tribune had its eye on him. Ironically. Sparkman, who suffered eye problems forever it seems, was suffering from aneurisms and had to sit out awhile before returning to work. 

Lamar stayed with me at the Times and then when Bob Hudson of the Tribune hired me as Sports Editor, DeLoach allowed me to take Sparkman with me to the bigger paper for bigger exposure.  Sparkman continued in that role, winning award after award for his cartooning until more eye problems caused him to give up his profession and spend his days at Canterbury Towers where he had lived his final years surrounded by friends.

Lamar Sparkman has continued to be a perfect gentleman in all ways, all the while being involved in Tampa’s high social circles including Gasparilla.

  Throughout the years of his cartooning, his favorite subjects have been the Florida Gators, so beloved to him, the Buccaneers and all things in Tampa sports.  In his features, he developed a series of cartoon subjects on the Gators which were widely accepted for their humor and his nitpicking at Gator politics. Lamar also stayed current on all of his Florida and Tampa subjects and was one of the best known young men in this town.  Sparkman and his late wife, Gloria, were longtime fixtures here in Tampa society.  They lived on Palma Ceia and participated in those club events.  Lamar was a bit of a paradox in that since he tended his family citrus groves.  He was always in a pickup truck, wearing jeans and roustabouting a bit.

Please know too that Lamar was an accomplished fisherman, a crowd of us fished Alaska, Central America and Boca Grande, where by the way, this gifted artist, Lamar Sparkman did some of his finest paintings of wildlife on the Gasparilla Island on Boca Grande. Our family living room is dotted with his works including the classic shot of a fishhawk having found and captured a mullet high over Boca Grande pass. The Sparkman family loved it so, the time they spent in Boca Grande, particularly when he could walk the beach with his easel and paint whatever came in view. 

I am sure that a photo of Lamar Sparkman and his painting equipment in Boca Grande might best reflect his happier times

Lamar Sparkman was as good a friend as I had in the Tampa Tribune and Times. 

Those were among our most cherished times, both Lamar and I. 

Thank you, Lord.

Reader Comments

Por (ronpride) on January 14, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Excellent column on Lamar Sparkman, Tom. Above my computer on the den wall is the framed cartoon he drew for me when I left your sports department. In it, I’m saying “No, Lamar. We don’t have room for 15 columns! Besides, you spelled your name wrong again.” Ali-Gator responds “You stung my Pride, Ron!” I’ve always valued that drawing and the memories of those days, even with the close calls on making deadline with Lamar’s cartoons.

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