Ruth Baxter Sparks, a political activist and campaign manager, died Wednesday of colon cancer at her twin sister's home in Ednor Gardens. The Morgan Park resident was 64.
Ruth Baxter was born in the town of North, S.C. She was a freshman at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., when she met Ralph W. Sparks, an upperclassman. The two married in 1958. After Mr. Sparks graduated from South Carolina State College Law School, they moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. Mrs. Sparks left school and worked briefly at a nursing home planning social activities.
She also studied political science at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, N.Y. She worked briefly in the early 1960s as a preschool teacher but spent most of her time at their Long Island home with her three children -- eldest son Terry Sparks and twins Renee Cuffie Sparks of Ednor Gardens and Norman Sparks of Brooklyn, N.Y. Terry Sparks died of leukemia in 1975 as a teen-ager.
Mrs. Sparks volunteered for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and several political campaigns, including her husband's successful bids for the judiciary. Eventually Mrs. Sparks was rewarded for her political prowess by being hired as an assistant to U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York.
When Judge Sparks died a decade ago from cancer, his wife stayed in New York and continued her volunteer work. In 1996, she moved to Baltimore to rejoin her siblings and her daughter.
Her sister Lillian Jones-Cuffie of Original Northwood called her a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker who loved political life. The two often served as hosts at political events -- fund-raisers, garden parties and get-out-the-vote gatherings -- for former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Baltimore mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Mrs. Sparks also traveled extensively with her twin sister, Reba Bullock of Ednor Gardens. The trips included visits to Alaska and Africa. Mrs. Sparks also loved to golf, garden, make elegant gowns and decorate her Morgan Park home. She and her family went to Martha's Vineyard in the summer.
Services will be held at noon tomorrow at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 2013 St. Paul St.
In addition to her two sisters and children, Mrs. Sparks is survived by three brothers, Frank Baxter and Wilbur Baxter of Baltimore and Ralph Baxter of North, S.C.; another sister, Celeste Morgan of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.