Sheriff’s Office Honors First Black Female Corrections Officer, Mary Frances Griffin Sparks

Pictured is daughter Juanita Allen holding the award surrounded by family members Daughter Beverley Watson, Grandson Mario Jennings, Jamie Jamison, Granddaughter Arnessa Wilson, Daughter Sheryl Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. Claude Thompson, Mr. & Mrs. James Jennings.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office posthumously honored the city’s first black female corrections officer during a ceremony Thursday March 31st in the Patrol Assembly Room located on second floor of the Police Memorial Building.

The family and friends of the late Mrs. Mary Frances Griffin Sparks participated and kindly accepted the award.

A lifelong resident of Jacksonville, Mrs. Sparks, who retired after 17 years with the Sheriff’s office, was a volunteer voter elections worker, a tutor to a host of needy children and participated in numerous community affairs, and a faithful member of Asbury United Methodist church.

In an effort to keep her mother’s memory alive, Juanita Allen, Mrs. Sparks, youngest daughter, spearheaded the recognition event. “ My Mother had a pioneering spirit, she lead the way for diversity in The Jacksonville Sheriff’s office,” said Allen. In 1962, Sparks, the only black corrections officer at the time, was tasked of guarding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his visit to Jacksonville. Ms. Allen continued, “My mom met Dr. King at the door and took him to his cell. She was really his person to see to make sure things went right that night.”

The family continues her legacy by serving their community with pride and helping others.

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