The young man in the suit and snazzy white dress shoes is my husband. As the winner of the county spelling bee in 1968, he represented Itawamba County in the Mid-South Spelling Bee sponsored by the Memphis Press-Scimitar. He came in third in the mid-south region, and I'll leave it to you to remember or figure out what word was mis-spelled to eliminate him from the competition. A few years earlier, Wayne Thrash, another Itawambian, actually made it all the way to the national competition in Washington, D.C. after winning the Mid-South Spelling Bee.
Mrs. Thornberry, who was the eighth grade English teacher and spelling coach at Fulton Junior High School, deserves a lot of the credit for the success of her spelling bee pupils. Every Friday, in each of her classes, she would hold mini spelling bees in which students would line up along the wall and spell. Mrs. Thornberry could identify potential champions this way, but she also kept her eye on the younger students from lower grades who performed well in the annual county bee. The county spelling bee was a big thing, held in the Fulton Grammar School auditorium in the early spring, usually in front of huge crowds. If one of Mrs. Thornberry's students won, and one usually did, then he or she had hours of additional work and study ahead of them. Mrs. Thornberry stayed after school with the winner, drilling them over and over with increasingly difficult words.
My spelling has always been merely adequate, and with the days of spell-check and computerized word processing, it has gotten me through, but I will always credit Mrs. Thornberry for my ability to diagram sentences, probably another lost art. Her fudge was pretty good too.
Pictured with Mike in the send-off in front of Fulton Junior High School is his teacher and spelling bee coach, Mrs. Euple Thornberry (rear), and students, left to right: Jack Cowart, Lisa Kilpatrick, Mike Dozier, Becky Jones and Phillip Moore.
It is quite handy to have a speller in the family! If you want to read more about Mrs. Thornberry and spelling bees, check out Twice Told Tombigbee Tales.