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Court Hall Beats Gus Newbury in Spelling Match

Gus Newbury was the Jackson County school superintendent for seven years, followed by a successful law career. In spite of Newbury’s prestige, his friend Court Hall challenged him in the Medford Mail Tribune to a mock spelling match at the Elks Club.

Hall said it was not his purpose to do any mudslinging, and added, tongue-in-cheek, “I realize that the homeliest of men always have a few friends.” 

In the same vein, Gus Newbury accepted Hall’s challenge, saying that “Mr. Hall is unacquainted with even the ABC of spelling.” 

On the night of Feb. 17, 1927, Newbury suffered an ignominious defeat when he misspelled his very first word, chauffeur. The magnanimous Court Hall silenced the cheers.

In 1931, a supposedly anonymous old timer published his views in the Mail Tribune.  Newbury never could spell, the old timer said, adding that Newbury had confessed as much.  He said Newbury also confessed that without Hall’s spelling support he never would have passed his first exam for a teacher’s certificate.

Spelling challenges aside, Newbury was one of the best-known attorneys in Southern Oregon when he died at the age of 85.

Sources: "Annual Spelling Bee Tonight at Elks’ Session." Mail Tribune 17 Feb. 1927 [Medford, Ore. Print; "Hall Spellers win Elks Bee, Gus Fades Fast." Ibid 18 Feb. 1927. Print; "Court Hall asks Gus Newbury for Spelling Contest." Ibid 9 Feb. 1927. Print; "Old Timer Says Hall can spell ring around Gus." Ibid 13 May 1931. Print; "Gus Newbury, 85, Prominent Lawyer, Educator, Passes." Ibid 27 July 1955. Print.

Pat Harper is the archivist for the Southern Oregon Historical Society, where she digitizes records, manages websites and learns more about regional history from the SOHS volunteers. After receiving her Master’s Degree in library science from the University of Illinois in 1980, Harper worked as a reference librarian, then as a library administrator. From 1994 to 2005, she was the Siskiyou County library director and lived in the country near Hornbrook, California.