Cover photo for James Warren Sparks's Obituary
James Warren Sparks Profile Photo

James Warren Sparks

James Warren Sparks, 82, of Phoenix, AZ passed away on February 20, 2023. Jim was born on February 12, 1941 in Bismarck, ND to Pat and Jack Sparks, joining older sister, Mary. At a young age, they moved to Pierre, SD, and later, to Oklahoma City, OK. After graduating from Harding High School, Jim went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Oklahoma, followed by graduate studies at Yale University. During his time at OU, Jim was a proud member of Beta Theta Pi and he remained a Sooner football fanatic throughout his life. Boomer Sooner!

While working a summer job in Alaska, Jim met the love of his life, Janet Bowman, and on August 28, 1965, they were married by his brother-in-law, Dr. Jerry Hilton in Denver, CO. After graduate school, Jan and Jim returned to Oklahoma City in 1964, landing a job with the Oklahoma Highway Department. In 1972, the young family moved to Phoenix, AZ, kickstarting a successful career as a traffic engineer for the City of Phoenix, Street Transportation Department, where he played a proud and integral role in developing the much-maligned “reverse lanes” on 7th Street and 7th Avenue.

He was nationally recognized for his work in traffic engineering and recently received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Traffic Engineers (Western Section). Jim was also a longtime voting member of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and helped develop standards for traffic control devices and best practices for traffic engineering across the United States. Jim retired as Deputy Director of the Street Transportation Department in 2007. He always considered himself fortunate to have a job he loved.

In 1964, Jim joined the Air National Guard as a navigator on the KC-135 Stratotanker, retiring as Lt. Col. in 1992. He loved being in the Guard, again, considering himself fortunate to see the world through military service. Jim always said, “I’ve been lucky all my life” and he certainly lived it to the fullest.

He loved playing tennis, ping pong, and Bridge. He enjoyed spending time with family and friends at the beach, coaching Little League baseball, boogie-boarding with his kids and grandsons, cheering for OU football, and the occasional bourbon and water served proudly in a red Solo cup.

Jim is survived by son, J. Steven Sparks (Luis), daughters Sarah Suppe and Nancy Sparks, beloved grandsons, Jacob Sparks and Ryan Suppe, sister Mary Hilton, nieces, nephews and a whole host of friends. Jim was preceded in death by first born son, David Timothy Sparks, his parents, Pat and Jack Sparks, his brother-in-law, Dr. Jerry Hilton, and his devoted wife of 50+ years Janet Bowman Sparks.

The family will host a reception/celebration of life in honor of Jim Sparks in the coming weeks. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Jim’s honor by mailing a check to VNSA at 2336 East Mulberry Dr., Phoenix, AZ 85016 or online to SAARC ( Condolences may be expressed at
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Warren Sparks, please visit our flower store.


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