Published:
Sunday, October 18th 2015

KC's longest-serving board member, Sonny Spradlin, passes away

Kilgore College's longest-serving board member, R.E. ‘Sonny' Spradlin Jr., passed away Saturday, Oct. 17.

Elected April 2, 1983, Spradlin surpassed both H.L. McKaig, a trustee from 1958 to 1985; and one of his mentors, the late Charlie McConnico, a former mayor of New London, who served the college from his election in 1963 to 1991.

Spradlin served five terms on the KC Board of Trustees, giving up his post in 2011.

"Sonny was a bigger-than-life figure in the life of Kilgore College, Kilgore Independent School District, and the community of Kilgore.  He loved Kilgore College and the Kilgore Community," Holda said.  "He was a fearless watchdog when it came to the budget and spending.   He did his homework; he could be very tough; but underneath all of his demeanor was a deep loyalty and faithfulness to Kilgore College and the City of Kilgore." 

He served on the KC Board of Trustees for 30 years, working with four KC presidents since he began on the board in 1983.

As a child, Spradlin and his family moved from Louann, Ark., to East Texas in May 1931 and he graduated from Kilgore High School before attending KC from 1948-49.

Spradlin met his wife, Betty, while he was enlisted in the Army at the Country Tavern, a famous barbecue and ribs restaurant that is still in business close to Kilgore.

Spradlin did well after graduating from Kilgore, playing baseball for the Longhorns at the University of Texas, named All Southwest Conference in 1953 and playing twice in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

A former business owner, Spradlin worked 45 years at East Texas Lumber in Kilgore before his son Ronnie, who serves as Kilgore's mayor, took over the business operations.

"In terms of truly elected time, Sonny is our longest-serving board member," Holda said. "Any time a person gives that many years of service and that much time, it is our obligation as a community college to thank them."

In 2013, the KC board room was remodeled and permanently renamed the "R.E. 'Sonny' Spradlin Jr. Executive Board Room" in honor of Spradlin.

Spradlin's sons, Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin, and Don Spradlin of Los Angeles, Calif., donated $100,000 to KC, with part of the money used to renovate and name the room after their father.

The "R.E. ‘Sonny' Spradlin Jr. Executive Board Room," located on the first floor of the Stewart H. McLaurin Administration Building, is equipped with refurnished furniture, new wall coverings, new lighting and modern decorations.

As part of the donation by the Spradlin sons, $75,000 was used to create the first-ever KC Presidential Scholarship named after a person.

The scholarship is called the R.E. "Sonny" Spradlin Jr. Presidential Scholarship," which will provide books, tuition and fees to a student each school year.

Services for Spradlin were held Oct. 20 at First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore.