Betty scott: an extraordinary life
A beautiful collection of glassware and china adorns the Betty Scott Room in the Washington County Museum in Chatom. This room houses a permanent collection and the shelves and lighting in it were provided by the husband and daughter of the room’s namesake, Betty Scott, a woman who collected many beautiful things throughout lifetime.
Known to her friends as “Betty,” Amanda Elizabeth Conerly Scott lived an extraordinary life. She was one of five daughters born to Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Conerly of Jackson. She was born April 1, 1917.
As a young adult in the era of the Great Depression, Betty learned the value of both hard work and education. Her mother was widowed when Betty was a teen, but managed to see all five of her daughters become successful. Betty was one of three attorneys among the sisters. The other two Conerly sisters saw success in the medical field as a physician and a pharmacist.
An alumnae of Jackson High School, Betty chose to attend Montevallo College (now the University of Montevallo) and later transferred to the University of Alabama. She graduated with her law degree in 1939 and returned to Clarke County to begin her career. She was hired by the Grove Hill law firm of Adams and Gilmore as a law clerk, but better career opportunities emerged across the river. In 1940, she accepted the appointment of official court reporter in Washington County. It was in the old Washington County courthouse that she met attorney Howard Gordon Scott. The couple married in January 1941.
Betty and Howard Scott
Scott held the appointment of court reporter until the birth of the Scotts’ only child, Julia. After Julia’s birth, Scott worked part-time as an executive secretary for Chatom attorney James Granade Sr. Otherwise, she devoted her life to serving her family and community.
The Red Cross Blood Program for Washington County was a favorite among the many charities that Scott supported. She served as chairman of the program and under her leadership, the program always met the quota. Her involvement with the Red Cross on the local level afforded her the opportunity to serve on the advisory staff of the American Red Cross for Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. She continued this activity until her diagnosis with lymphoma in 1969.
Betty Scott gave her home to the town of Chatom. It is the setting for wedding receptions, parties, showers, meetings, luncheons and other small gatherings on a regular basis.
Dropped DAR membership
Another organization that Scott was involved in was the Daughters of the American Revolution. Scott was immensely proud of her heritage, tracing it back to the beginning of the nation. However, when the DAR organization refused to allow African-American opera star, Marion Anderson to perform at DAR Constitution Hall in 1939, Scott renounced her membership in the organization.
Betty Scott had many friends and was not discriminate to others based on race. In fact, two of Scott’s best friends were African-American. Lular Taylor and Ceola Jordan were such close friends to Scott that they were asked to sit with her family during her funeral services. Beautiful friendships among both black women and white women were of utmost importance to Scott.
‘Champions of reading and literacy’
Literacy was among the beautiful things that Scott and her husband believed to be of extreme importance. They were instrumental in the founding and sustainment of the Washington County Public Library. The library was originally located in a one room space at Washington County High School. However, Howard Scott rallied for library funding on local and state levels. Eventually, the library was able to move to a much larger space at Chatom City Hall. The Scotts are described as “champions of reading and literacy for people of all ages” by the Washington County Hall of Fame, to which both were inducted in 2014.
During her brief 56 years, Scott saw many changes. A youth during the Depression, a young wife during World War II, and an activist during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, she was well versed in how to handle change and adversity with class and decorum.
As Washington County schools became integrated, Scott was asked to serve as director of Title I. According to Scott’s obituary, this was due to her “ability to get along with the people and with full cooperation of all the educators in both races.” Scott was credited with the successful integration of the Washington County School System with no violent incidences noted.
Died in 1973
In 1969, Scott was diagnosed with lymphoma. She had surgery and was treated for this condition until her death at Washington County Hospital in 1973. Family records indicate that she was treated with “cobalt and chemicals” which is now referred to as chemotherapy.
While her illness was debilitating, Scott continued her pursuit of the beautiful things in life. For years, she had collected paintings, rare glassware, unique dishes and extraordinary antique furnishings. Throughout her life, she gifted many of these things, along with her favorite flower, the African violet, to her friends. Her organization of the Chatom Federated Garden Club provided her the opportunity to share her knowledge of gardening while visiting with other women.
Gave collection and home to WashCo
As she became more aware of her progressing illness, Scott prepared her will. In it, she expressed the hope that her vast collection of paintings, glassware and china would be made available on a loan basis to the Washington County Museum with any required funds to be furnished by her husband and daughter.
This is how the unique Betty Scott Room came to be. Its lighted glass shelves are filled with rare Depression era glassware, Limoges porcelain, Wedgewood and Lenox china and Waterford crystal. Beautiful items collected by one who saw beauty in every situation fill the space.
Scott willed the couple’s home to the town of Chatom with the understanding that her husband and daughter would use the home throughout their lives.
The Scott House is the setting for wedding receptions, parties, showers, meetings, luncheons and other small gatherings on a regular basis.
Surely Betty Scott would be thrilled with the celebrations that fill the home that she once filled with friends and beauty.
Legacy lives on
Though her life was shortened by cancer more than four decades ago, the legacy of Amanda Elizabeth Conerly Scott lives on through the contributions she made to law, education, integration, literacy and fellowship in Washington County.
American interior designer Elsie de Wolfe is quoted as saying, “I’m going to make everything around me beautiful— that will be my life.” It’s not known if de Wolfe achieved this goal, but Betty Scott certainly did.
Her collection can be viewed daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Washington County Museum on the basement level of the courthouse in Chatom.
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