FORT MILL --
Special to the Fort Mill Times
When James Lee Spratt passed away last summer, his loss was felt not just in his hometown, but across York County.
Mr. Spratt, a decorated World War II veteran, founder of Carolina Community Actions and accomplished author, passed away from natural causes on July 2. He was 91.
A direct descendant of the first European settler of what would become Fort Mill, Mr. Spratt was born in Fort Mill in 1920. He lived on Spratt Street for most of his childhood until the age of 16. Following the death of his parents, he moved in with an uncle in York and graduated from York High School in 1937.
Mr. Spratt attended Presbyterian College, then he went to Clemson College when it was still a military school.
In 1940, he began his military career at Infantry Officer Candidate School and graduated in 1942 as a second lieutenant. While fighting in Okinawa as a captain, he suffered a leg wound and after recovering was assigned to an occupation unit in Germany. Shortly after, he met his first wife, Barbara Jean Herron, in 1946, and their first of four children, Jean, was born in 1947.
In the late 1940s, Mr. Spratt served as the commander of a prisoner of war camp in Korea. He would later write two books on his experiences there: “They Left their Mark” and “Military Trial Techniques.”
While still in the Army, he married his second wife, Francis Griffith Anderson, in 1963. In 1964, he retired as a major after 24 years of service. He was awarded the Purple Heart and four oak leaf clusters as distinctions.
After returning from duty in 1965, Mr. Spratt was selected to be the first Executive Director of Carolina Community Actions, a non-profit organization designed to combat poverty. In 1967, as more organizations like Carolina Community Actions sprung up around the state and eventually the United States, Mr. Spratt was selected to be the first Director of the State of Economic Opportunity Division in Columbia. He helped direct and advise all of the agencies in the state on how to help families in need achieve economic independence.
He helped provide funding for people requiring health care, housing assistance, emergency shelter, education, and other issues and held that position under four governors for over 20 years.
Walter Kellogg, the current executive director of Carolina Community Actions, said although he only worked with Mr. Spratt for a week, he made a lasting impression on him.
“He was quite a character,” Kellogg said.
Spratt’s children recall his versatile personality and disciplined nature.
“Daddy raised us in a very strict environment with responsibilities and chores and manners...he was very much a stickler for doing your best,” said his son, Thomas Spratt IV of Fort Mill.
“At the end of the time, you look back and think, ‘I’m glad he did that.’”
His daughter, Jean Spratt Jackson, now of Columbia, remembers driving around with him when “he would sing and make up crazy songs about us: ‘There once was a girl who didn’t have a single curl...’”
And she remembers, “how wonderful he looked in his navy-blue Army uniform.”
At the end of almost 92 years, Mr. Spratt will be remembered as a well-respected man who held himself and others to high standards in order to achieve success.
“He lived a very good life,” Jean Spratt Jackson said. “He’s always my knight in shining armor.”