Andy Sprinkle: A life redeemed

Dr. Jim TumblinFountain City, Our Town Stories

Born in Asheville, North Carolina, on July 12, 1925, Andy Sprinkle attended elementary and high school there. He had discovered alcohol when he found himself a naïve 16-year-old cast out on the “seas of life.” When World War II began, he joined the Marine Corps and continued to drink while serving in the South Pacific.

He came to Knoxville after his discharge and entered the University of Tennessee for a time and then permanently established his home in Knoxville in 1955. He had long been fascinated by the printing business and founded the Padd Letter Service and built a successful business in spite of his drinking habits.

SHARING HIS WISDOM. Andy Sprinkle is shown with his offset press in his Padd Letter Service, which he owned and operated for 28 years. He stated, “I go and share because if I can keep one of them from going down the same road I did, then it is worth it.”

In the early 1960s, he hit bottom and lost his wife and family life. An acquaintance approached him and proposed the idea of using Andy’s printing expertise and state-of-the-art equipment to counterfeit some $50 and $100 bills. He rejected the first few overtures but, when taunted by the statement, “You couldn’t do it anyway,” he succumbed. His alcohol-fueled ego took over, and he printed $200,000 in the two denominations.

At this time the business had been moved to the Station building in Fountain City. The morning paper announced the news to an astounded community. The Secret Service had come calling, and Andy was arrested. It was almost a relief as he was “going crazy” with the thoughts of what he had done. One of the agents said that it was the first person they had caught who confessed the first time he was caught.

Amazingly, although he faced a possible 50-year prison term, he was sentenced to only two years. In prison, Andy made some life-changing decisions when he decided he would never again use alcohol and, for the first time in his life, he made peace with himself and decided to put his faith in religion.

With credit for his good behavior, he emerged from prison 14 months, five days and three hours later as a changed man. He returned to Knoxville where his wife had remained, keeping his business afloat. He re-committed himself to her and to their children and began telling his story to church and civic groups or whoever else would listen.

When the corrections department’s Project First Offender program began in 1972, he volunteered and began working with adults aged 18 to 22 who had encountered the law for the first time. He and others in the program were assigned to meet with young offenders once a week to offer guidance and help in attempts to keep them out of further trouble.

Part of Andy’s hard-sell included taking the young offenders to visit prisons where they could see what their future could hold if they did not reform. Each visit triggered painful memories for him, but he persisted, logging up to 36,000 miles in one year traveling to corrections facilities around the country to carry his message.

His work earned him recognition and an award as the East Tennessee Region Volunteer of the Year in 1987. He also participated in the Lay Witness Ministry throughout the South and received the JC Penney Golden Rule and Service to Mankind awards. His travels took him to such places as the Tucker (Arkansas) State Prison and to Ireland and South Africa. He also served his local church, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, as a Sunday School teacher and chair of evangelism.

Andy L. Sprinkle, 72 years of age, passed away on Sept. 16, 1997. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Jim Tumblin, retired optometrist and active historian, writes a monthly series on Fountain City for

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