SPARLIN, ESTAL EARNEST (7 Aug. 1907-21 Aug. 1998) was the director of the CITIZENS LEAGUE OF GREATER CLEVELAND and a lifelong advocate for good government. He was born in Osage County, Indian territory, in Oklahoma to "Burthie" (Ryan) and Oscar Sparlin and graduated from Ponca City High School. Sparlin worked as a paperboy and linotype operator at the Ponca City News. From 1928-1935 he worked at the Columbia Tribune while he attended University of Missouri, where he received his bachelors and master's degrees. He received a doctorate in political science there in 1936. Following his graduation, Sparlin taught at the University of Missouri and at the University of Arkansas. He also worked for the Arkansas government and as a legislative analyst for the Missouri General Assembly. Prior to coming to Cleveland, Sparlin was the assistant director of the Governmental Research Institute in St. Louis. In 1953 he became the director of the Governmental Research Institute and Citizens League in Cleveland. He retired in 1975 but was named acting director of the CLEVELAND COMMISSION ON HIGHER EDUCATION that year and continued attending public meetings at CITY HALL until the mid-1980s to serve as a watchdog on behalf of his fellow citizens.
As leader of the non-partisan Citizens League, Sparlin researched the credentials of candidates for public office, then published the league's views of their qualifications to assist voters. He also provided explanations for voters of the intricacies of tax levies and bond issues. Sparlin fought for the reduction of Cleveland's wards from 33 to 21, helped prevent the expansion of the Port Authority Board (see CLEVELAND-CUYAHOGA COUNTY PORT AUTHORITY) to more than nine members, and assisted in gaining approval for Sunday liquor sales to enhance convention business and produce additional revenue. In 1978 he was named citizen of the year by the CLEVELAND AREA BOARD OF REALTORS for his role in the adoption of Ohio's ethics law, for bringing voting machines to Cuyahoga County, and for doubling the Citizens League's membership. In addition to his duties at the Citizens League, Sparlin was an active member of the CITY CLUB and ROTARY.
Sparlin married Harriet (Trip) in 1928 in Ponca City, Oklahoma and together they had five children: Denise (Gilgen), David, Derry, Dale, and Dan. Sparlin passed away at the Mayfair Village nursing home in Columbus and his ashes were scattered in Osage County, OK.