- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Census Worker Death ‘Horrible for Appalachia’

New America Media, Q&A, Annette Fuentes Posted: Sep 29, 2009

Editor’s Note: When U.S. Census worker Bill Sparkman, 51, was found dead in Clay County, Kentucky, reportedly with the word “Fed” scrawled on his chest, speculation about his death ran rampant although detailed information reported by the media has been limited and contradictory. While some commentators have suggested that Sparkman’s death is evidence of growing anti-federal sentiment, especially with the first African-American president in the White House, those who know rural Kentucky have a deeper understanding of long-standing sentiments and forces at play. Mimi Pickering, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and community media specialist at Apalshop, in Whitesburg, Ky., talked with NAM editor Annette Fuentes about the Sparkman incident and how to understand it in the context of Appalachia’s history and present day circumstances.

Tell me about Clay County, where Bill Sparkman’s body was found.

Clay County is one of the poorest in the country, perhaps number one or number two in terms of low income and life expectancy, lower than Cuba or Pakistan. That kind of poverty often leads to black market or underground economy activity. It backs up to the Daniel Boone National Forest, which is a place where a marijuana plant or two might pop up. And there is also the tradition of making moonshine, and the feds are the revenuers.

It is also a county where top officials were indicted and convicted for vote buying of various kinds about six months ago. More recently, there was a drug bust involving lots of pills—Oxycontin, I think.

So perhaps Sparkman just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There are people engaged in illegal activities who are going to see anyone working for the government as the enemy. Time magazine had a good piece on Sept.25 that looks at those issues. [“Government Distrust and a Dead Census Taker”] The most recent report I read questioned whether he was actually working at the time he was killed.

There have been conflicting accounts about the circumstances of his death as reported in the media, but perhaps that is owed to what information law enforcement is letting out.

The Kentucky state police are pretty straight and they’ve got the FBI down there working with them. I don’t think anything is being covered up, but it certainly has been strange.

Some have suggested that Sparkman’s death is related to a bigger, national anti-government sentiment, but maybe that’s not accurate.

This whole region has a history of people suspicious when others come around knocking on doors. It is a place where people know most everyone, so if a stranger shows up, everyone would notice.

What kind of employment is there for people?

There used to be coal mining, but not anymore. Now, of the biggest employers is the federal prison. Congressman Hal Rogers used pork barrel spending to bring some prisons into his district.

Sparkman’s death, under whatever circumstances, has certainly brought notoriety to the region. How do locals feel about it?

It’s horrible for Appalachia. It’s so easy to stereotype the region and this doesn’t help. But everyone is also shocked by what happened.

Related Articles:

Locals Parse Death of Kentucky Census Worker

A Census Martyr in Kentucky?

'Fed' Written on Chest of Hanged Census Worker in Ky. County

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civil Liberties

Why There Are Words

Aug 10, 2011