Son, Who’s Your Daddy? The Orphan Who Became Governor of Tennessee


By Mike Sparks
America’s Fatherless Epidemic?

As we observe Father’s Day this year on June 17 we, as a society should ask: “What is the state of “fatherhood” today and does it have any real significance in society?”

Today, nearly 40 percent of births in the United States now occur out of wedlock, according to a Centers for Disease Control report from 2006. If I said, “40 percent of Americans had the flu, HIV or hepatitis C, we would call it an “epidemic.”

The fatherless statistics are very alarming, yet we don’t call it an “epidemic.” Research has shown us the correlation to single-parent homes and issues such as drug addiction, drop-out rates, alcoholism, juvenile crime and more are interwoven. Boys are more likely to become involved in crime and girls are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers.

Related: Gov. Lee signs act to speed up child placement, support foster and adoptive families

For some reason we often turn a blind eye to the plight of the fatherless. Unfortunately, legendary Nashville reporters seem to turn a blind eye to such a serious issue that has profound implications on society. Sadly, the root cause of much of the violence that they will report on correlates to the fatherless-especially in the at risk communities.

I’ve always liked the quote by Robert Kennedy, “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Leaders, teachers, coaches, policy makers, pastors, professors and others should start asking, “Why?”


Related: Department of Children’s Services wrestles with solutions for housing children in state custody


We cannot continue to “Legislate and Incarcerate” our way out of problems in our society. As I’ve always said, “There are no lobbyists in Nashville for “We The People.” If you feel a desire to correct me email and let me know who it is.  (

Action Homes Amy Mabry

  “A Father to the Fatherless, a Defender of Widows, is God in his Holy Dwelling”

Psalm 68:5


Fatherless Statistics

  • 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)

  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes – 10 times the average.

  • 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)

  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.

  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.

  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)

  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; ASEP Issue Brief: Information on Poverty and Income Statistics. September 12, 2012

My Meeting DCS Commissioner Jim Henry

When I first met former Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Jim Henry I was at a meeting here in Rutherford County. He shared a story that I had never heard before. It was a story of a young “fatherless” boy, yet God had a big plans for his life.

As Commissioner Henry told the story to the small crowd of elected offciials, social workers, judges, Murfreesboro police chief and more. I couldn’t help but think of the tough relationship I had with my own WW11 father who grew up during the Great Depression era.

Former Tennessee Chief of Staff to Governor Bill Haslam and Dept of Children’s Services Commissioner Jim Henry

As I glanced around the room I noticed a few tears being shed. Jim Henry, who is the most sincerest Tennessee leader I have ever met (Unfortunately many leaders aren’t sincere) can certainly tell a story.

The issue of the fatherless is one which sadly doesn’t make any headlines today, yet has profound adverse effects on our society.

Son Who’s Your Daddy? The Story of Ben Hooper the Orphan, Who Became Governor of Tennessee


A seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg , TN. One morning, they were eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet, family meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, ‘I hope he doesn’t come over here.’ But sure enough, the man did come over to their table.

‘Where are you folks from?’ he asked in a friendly voice.
‘ Oklahoma ,’ they answered.
‘Great to have you here in Tennessee ,’ the stranger said.. ‘What do you do for a living?’
‘I teach at a seminary,’ he replied.

‘Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I’ve got a really great story for you.’ And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the couple.

The professor groaned and thought to himself,
Great .. Just what I need…another preacher story!’

The man started, ‘See that mountain over there? (pointing out the
restaurant window). Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother. He had a hard time growing up, because every place he went, he was always asked the same question, ‘Hey boy, Who’s your daddy?
Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question, ‘Who’s your daddy?’

He would hide at recess and lunch time from other students. He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt him so bad. ‘When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church. He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, ‘Who’s your daddy?’
But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast that he got
caught and had to walk out with the crowd.

Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, ‘Son, who’s your daddy?’

The whole church got deathly quiet. He could feel every eye in the church looking at him Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question,
Who’s your daddy?’

‘This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using
discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to
that scared little boy.. ‘Wait a minute! I know who you are! I see the
family resemblance now, You are a child of God.’
With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a
great inheritance. Go and claim it.’

‘With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again. Whenever anybody asked him, ‘Who’s your Daddy?’ he’d just tell them , ‘I’m a Child of God..’

The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, ‘Isn’t that a great story?’
The professor responded that it really was a great story!

As the man turned to leave, he said, ‘You know, if that new preacher hadn’t told me that I was one of God’s children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!’ And he walked away..

The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress over & asked her, ‘Do you know who that man was — the one who just left that was sitting at our table?’

The waitress grinned and said, ‘Of course. Everybody here knows him. That’s Ben Hooper.
… He’s governor of Tennessee!’

There are many ways to get involved to volunteer and positively impact another young man or young woman’s lives. Contact Tennessee Achieves at or call them at (629) 888-5868 or your local Boys and Girls Clubs at just to name a few.