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W&L Alum Recounts His Life in Ballooning

In May 1984 Washington and Lee alumnus Kingswood Sprott launched a hot-air balloon from the University’s Front Lawn as photographers snapped the cover photo for the alumni magazine that would feature King’s avocation.

Lifting up between the Colonnade and Lee Chapel made for dramatic photos. But in comparison to most of King’s more memorable flights, it was quite tame.

As the alumni magazine story, “A King of the Skies,” related, King had already set three world altitude records in balloons, had completed the first balloon crossing of the Andes Mountains and had received the Montgolfier Diploma from the World Congress of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the top award in internationally ballooning.

“Some people like to fish,” King said then. “Personally, fishing bores me. I like to fly balloons.”

King, a member of the Classes of 1956 and 1958L, has now set down the stories of his ballooning in an e-book, “Nine Lives: A Memoir of Extreme Ballooning.” He describes the book on his website as “a personal recounting of flights and challenges that were never conceived to be death-inviting derring-do, but became so nevertheless.”

Whenever one of his ballooning deeds was chronicled in the local newspapers in Lakeland, Fla., where he practiced law, the story almost always began “Prominent Lakeland attorney Kingswood Sprott…” That prompted his fellow attorney to refer to him as “prominent Lakeland attorney.”

Among the many stories that King can tell about his ballooning is one that was included in a November 1999 article in “Balloon Life.” It was on the state of ballooning in Florida and, naturally, King was a key character.

As the story was told, King had left Lake Wales and was headed toward Winter Haven when he landed in a lot next to a house, disturbing the home owner. “I introduced myself
 and she said, ‘I’ve got your
 ring,'” Sprott told the magazine.

The woman went inside and retrieved a W&L class ring with 
”Kingswood Sprott” engraved on it. Sprott 
lost the ring in a lake in the ’60s, and the 
woman had stepped on it while swimming there. As coincidences go, that landing may be as improbable as the Andes crossing.

If you know any W&L alumni who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.