J.C. Sparkman Dies at 87

Cable pioneer J.C. Sparkman died at age 87 on July 16. Sparkman spent three decades as chief operations officer for Tele-Communications Inc., which was ultimately bought by AT&T for $48 billion.

“J.C. was one of a kind,” said former TCI CEO John Malone, now chairman of Liberty Global and Liberty Media. ”Both of us entered the cable TV business through Jerrold Electronics more than 50 years ago. He was absolutely key to making TCI the largest and most important cable company in America. We really built the company on J.C.’s back." 

“His incredible energy and his leadership in building a team that could survive adversity and then grow exponentially was unmatched,” Malone added. ”He was a builder of companies but never lost sight of what mattered most in life, his incredible family.”

Sparkman was hired by Tele-Communications Inc. founder Bob Magness in 1969.

Sparkman was on the board of Liberty Global and had been on the boards of Universal Electronics, Inc., On Command Corporation, TSX Corporation, Liberty Media International, Inc., Comcast Cable Holdings LLC, DMX Inc., and United Video Satellite Group.

Sparkman was a co-founder of Cable in the Classroom and J.C. Sparkman Center for National Teacher Training, which provided free technology education for teachers.



He also teamed with Magness to seed the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute.

Sparkman is survived by his wife of 69 years, Dolores, daughters Debra Urband, Pam Bartheis and son, Michael Sparkman. He also has six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and a sister, Velta Mae Grabeal.

Services will be for family only due to the pandemic. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the J.C. and Dolores Sparkman Cancer Fund, Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation, 13123 E. 16th Ave., B045, Aurora, CO, 80045

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.