Photo: Pronouncer Martha Touchton, winner John Callow & RTS Executive Director Lisa Mitchell
After 128 words in 10 rounds of tough competition, Murfreesboro Community Development Director John Callow claimed the title of 2017 Celebrity Bee Champion with the correct spelling of “slumgullion.”
MTSU Jones College of Business Dean Dr. David Urban came in a close second, but misspelled “eburnated” in the ninth round. VIP Magazine Editor Carrie Beth Catron was eliminated in the eighth round, placing third.
“I’m awfully glad I didn’t get either of Dr. Urban’s last two words,” said Callow, who placed second in the first Celebrity Spelling Bee in 2007.
Callow said the rules of the bee were changed after his first appearance. He used a piece of paper 10 years ago to write the words down before spelling them.
But he didn’t need it 10 years later because he knew how to spell it.
“It sounded Victorian like it came from a Dickens novel,” the former English teacher and newspaper reporter said.
And he was right. The first recorded use of “slumgullion," meaning a cheap stew, was in Mark Twain's “Roughing It” in 1872.
Callow wasn’t the only winner of the night. Chad Hill was honored as the speller who raised the most money. Scott Kimberly was honored as the speller with the most donors.
And the real winner was Read To Succeed.
The Bee was filled with laughs and hundreds of Read To Succeed supporters rallying behind literacy. More than $61,000 was raised for Read To Succeed’s annual fundraiser with more donations coming in.
Lisa Mitchell, executive director of Read To Succeed said “My goal was to make sure that my last spelling bee as executive director was our biggest and best to date. Our amazing staff and volunteers made sure that goal was achieved!”
Mitchell also announced her impending retirement at the Bee. She will retire at the end of the year. Jolene Radnoti was announced as the next executive director of the nonprofit.
Celebrities include Jantrice Johnson, realtor at Intero Real Estate; Murfreesboro Fire Department Shift Commander Tim Swann; Alan Farley, Administrator of Elections, Rutherford County Election Commission; Savannah Grimm, Morning DJ, 107.5 The River; Ethan Kennan, seventh-grade student at Thurman Francis and 2017 Read To Bee winner; Gayle Porterfield, sixth-grade teacher at Mitchell Neilson; Chad Hill, Volunteer State Bank, SVP of Relationships Manager; Julie Young, Director of Operations at Greenhouse Ministries; David Young, Senior Minister at North Boulevard Church of Christ; Chris Jackson, Senior Analyst at State Farm Insurance; Sky Harris, Murfreesboro Police Officer; and attorney Scott Kimberly. All of these individuals are winners for giving of their time and helping raise much needed funding.
Martha Touchton, Minister of Education at St. Mark’s Methodist Church served as pronouncer, with Janie Becker, Dallas Jessup and Suzy Willis serving as judges.
Funds from the Bee stay 100 percent in Rutherford County and support Read To Succeed’s adult tutoring program, in-school family literacy programs, ESL classes, and dozens of other events in the community aimed at promoting reading.
“The fundraising goal could not have been meet without the support of valued community-minded businesses, individuals and foundations. These funds will support and help expand Read To Succeed’s family and adult literacy programs for the next year”, Mitchell said.
Sponsors were Nissan, Ingram, Bridgestone, Colonial Pipeline, Fred and Cindy Adams, Jennings and Rebecca Jones Foundation, Volunteer State Bank, Yates Services, Adams Family Foundation, Coggin Family Foundation, Joe and Judy Powell, Andy Womack – State Farm Insurance, Bud’s Tire Pros, Don and Melanie Clayton, Dr. Liz Rhea, Middle Tennessee Emergency Physicians at Saint Thomas, Murfreesboro Electric Department, Murfreesboro Housing Authority, Kimberly Family Foundation, Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, David and Sandra Arnold, Ashley Holloway-Holloway Accounting Services, Health Services Management, Murfreesboro Medical Clinic and West Fork Building Company.