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The Hanging.
February 23, 2013 10:02 AM   Subscribe

"The body of William Sparkman Jr., a 51-year-old census worker, was found in 2009 in an isolated cemetery in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. He hung naked from a tree, hands bound, the word FED scrawled in black marker across his chest."

Rich Shapiro goes longform on Sparkman's death in The Atlantic.
posted by mwhybark (21 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read at the time about the discovery that Sparkman's death was actually a suicide instead of a homicide. That made it even more tragic, especially for his son.
posted by Sleeper at 10:09 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was incredibly relieved when it turned out to be a suicide.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:18 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


For Meta context, there are two relevant previouslys to this ... the first of which was a particularly dramatic thread as I recall. Or more to the point, the initial thread got deleted due to all manner of drama. But the one linked to here does reflect on it. Touchy subject indeed.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was incredibly relieved when it turned out to be a suicide.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:18 AM on February 23 [1 favorite +] [!]


This is a rare chance for Blue-ains to see what they said back then back then VS today.

(Pope Guilty stated: "Sounds like a suicide to me." FYI)

posted by rough ashlar at 10:46 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Poor man. He seemed like such a kind, decent, able person. If just one significant thing had gone right in his life instead of wrong, such as his being able to find a job as a teacher or his son deciding to behave himself and help out with the bills, I bet Bill Sparkman would never have hung himself.
posted by orange swan at 10:48 AM on February 23, 2013


This story broke my heart then, and it breaks my heart now.
posted by scody at 10:57 AM on February 23, 2013


Jesus, the poor man. I was angry with him, when I learned the truth, because he had injected fraud into a highly polarized political situation. Now that we've all managed to lurch on from 2008, I only feel sorry for him. And to do it for a family that consisted entirely of that kid, too -- ! The money would have gone up his nose in two years anyway.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:12 AM on February 23, 2013


This is very irritating to me because I do remember the breathless reporting and 24 hour news cycle endlessly going on about the census murder in Appalachia but have no recollection about it later being reported a suicide. Pointless speculation seems to bring viewers but reporting the truth, not so much.
posted by karlos at 11:30 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Pope Guilty stated: "Sounds like a suicide to me." FYI)

I was actually being sarcastic! I'm glad I was wrong.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:32 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Once again, "follow the money" ends up being the right advice.

.
for a good man driven to a bad end.
posted by Etrigan at 12:07 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote a typically fantastic piece on Sparkman (amongst other subjects): American Grotesque
posted by mannequito at 12:24 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was incredibly relieved when it turned out to be a suicide.

I was. Whew.

have no recollection about it later being reported a suicide

The right-wing blogs were crowing about it for weeks. Pretty much the same thing after the Giffords shooting when the media put the spotlight on the use of gunsights for political ads and so forth, but Loughner turned out to be a garden-variety nondescript loon.
posted by dhartung at 2:54 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds more like "we couldn't figure out what happened, so we assume it was a suicide".
posted by wierdo at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Terribly sad story. Poor man.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:09 PM on February 23, 2013


wierdo, did you read the article? He had detailed his suicide plans to his friend Lowell.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:09 PM on February 23, 2013


So if ever a man should ask you for your business or your name
Tell him to go and fuck himself, tell his friends to do the same
'Cause a man who'd trade his liberty for a safe and dreamless sleep
Doesn't deserve the both of them and neither shall he keep


That's the only Frank Turner song I never sing along to; I always think of this incident when he sings it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:16 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Half of this reads like a Lovecraft story, with bits like The history of Clay County is soaked in blood. Violence roiled this remote corner of Appalachia in the late 19th century, fueled by grisly feuds between rival families. The hostility between the wealthy and influential clans—the Bakers versus the Howards, the Philpots versus the Griffins, the Garrards versus the Whites—spanned decades and spawned national headlines. “It is a strange, bloody story, this of Clay County’s two recent feuds,” read a New York Times report published on November 26, 1899. “Its ferocity, barbarity, and cruelty are appalling.” and the general backwoods setting. I think that's just the author's biases.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:23 PM on February 23, 2013


I was actually being sarcastic!

VS this claim of emotion about the situation:

I'm glad I was wrong.

Voices in the wilderness far outside The Blue were questioning the mainstream narrative within 12 hours of the initial reporting of the story.

But when politics and racism are to be invoked - the regulars of The Blue will man the barricades singing their songs and carrying their signs with declarations of hurray for our side.

he had injected fraud into a highly polarized political situation.

Some of that injection/polarization was typical axe grinding by those with Position X and fitting the case to make a statement on Position X.

no recollection about it later being reported a suicide.

Most propaganda or things used for propaganda (err now called Public Relations) have that feature. Make a big statement now, place the retraction on a notice in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leper.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:39 PM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


There seems to be an implication that he was a potential pedophile - single, spent all that time around kids - that was never followed up.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:49 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Egad that is terrible-quality writing!
posted by Galadhwen at 4:22 PM on February 23, 2013


I figure his marker ran out of ink before he could write "UP" below "FED".
posted by telstar at 12:01 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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