Betty McKnight Speairs
WWII Civilian
Has some mild memories of the Depression and of wartime in Dallas
Audio Samples

Betty McKnight was born in Dallas as "the middle of five children" to Rufus N. and Ida Langston McKnight. Her father was a lawyer and veteran of World War I. From her childhood in the Depression she remembers beggars coming to their house for food. The family traveled all day on trips to visit her paternal grandmother in Clinton, Louisiana. They left Dallas at 4 a.m., crossed the Atchafalaya River on a ferry, and arrived in Clinton at "10 or 11 p.m." During the war she recalls rationing for items such as coffee, gasoline, sugar, and shoes. Betty says her teachers at North Dallas High School were excellent. Planning a teaching career, she entered SMU, majored in mathematics and Latin, and graduated in 1946. A year later she earned her masters degree in mathematics. Centenary College of Louisiana hired her as an instructor. Some of her first students were veterans who were older than her. She remembers them as "very conscientious students." Betty married Richard Kirk Speairs, Jr., a biology teacher at Centenary, on December 18, 1961. After teaching at Centenary for 40 years, Betty retired in 1987. The couple built a home near Mena, Arkansas. It doubles as a biological station, where they host scientists and students on field trips.