Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Bonnie Brown: Q&A with Oxford Local, Bettye Galloway

Bettye Galloway is an Oxford icon, a woman of immense talent and accomplishment.  Yet, so humble.  Her reflections on her childhood in Lafayette County will resonate with a lot of Oxford residents.  She has had an amazing life and career, yet always downplays her significant roles and contributions.     

Betty Galloway. Photo submitted. 

Brown:  You grew up in Oxford and Lafayette County. Talk about your childhood and how Oxford has changed over the years.  

Galloway:  I was born at Lafayette Springs in the middle of the Great Depression and was allowed to attend the school there for the primer and first grade.  We moved to Oxford the summer I was five.  When my mother tried to enroll me in the Oxford school she was told I was not old enough to enroll since regulations required a child had to be six years old by January 1.  Since I would not be six until my birthday on January 4, I had to wait a year to enroll in the first grade.  Since I was already writing cursive and reading Hawthorne and Swift, my first two years listening to the other first-graders learning their A, B, Cs was not much fun.

Oxford was a very small town during my early years, probably not more than 2,500 people.  Everybody knew everybody else, and all of us kids played all over town.  If we had a problem in somebody else’s yard, that mother picked us up and spanked us.  The other mothers didn’t object; they simply said: “thank you!”  We skated up and down the hills, some rode bikes (I never learned how), we checked out books from the library, and enjoyed our childhood.  Oxford was a wonderful place to grow up.  It’s hard to realize how much Oxford has grown over the years.  There have been growing pangs, but Oxford is now a beautiful thriving city, and I marvel at what it has become.

Brown:  Please talk about your parents, siblings, and crazy aunts and uncles.

Galloway:  We had a very interesting extended family.  Both my mother and my father had been married previously and they each had three children when they married.  The youngest of each was over ten years older than me which meant they all were grown and gone before I was old enough for much interaction with them.  Momma and daddy had three children, my brother, my sister, and me.  I enjoyed telling one person that I had one brother and one sister and another person that I had eight brothers and sisters—all true! And confusing to them!

I lost my father when I was five, which necessitated our move to Oxford so my mother could get a job to take care of our family.  She worked as a nurse with the county health department for most of my school years.  Her job consisted primarily of visiting the county schools and administering needed vaccinations, typhoid, smallpox, etc.  She probably would be called a “school nurse” now and her job was only when school was in session and she had no job in the summer.  Consequently, each May we packed up, bag and baggage, and moved to our house in Lafayette Springs,  pulled off our shoes, and fished and waded the creeks all summer.  In late that August we put our shoes back on, and moved back to town to go to school and go to work.  We had our country friends and our city friends–we had the best of both worlds.

Brown:  Where did you go to school? 

Galloway:  When I was growing up, Oxford only had a grammar school for grades one through six.  In grade seven all kids transferred to University High School (UHS), a teacher training institute for the Ole Miss Department of Education.  Teachers, there were members of the University faculty and were assisted by senior students of Ole Miss.  Usually, there were several “teachers” in each class; it was like a one-on-one learning situation, and the UHS graduates who attended Ole Miss simply had to walk across the bridge to the main campus and were already more prepared academically than most of the other freshmen.  I loved UHS, and still, keep in touch with my schoolmates!  

Brown:  I came from an age that you could either be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher.  Please share with us what you wanted to be when you grew up.

Galloway:  Since I was financially unable to attend college when I finished high school,  I looked for a job. Since the only jobs available for females without a college education were waitresses or stenographers.  My mother swore I would never wait tables and she insisted that in high school I take typing and shorthand.  She always said, “If you can type, you can eat!”  She was right!  I applied for and got my first job on the Oxford Square as Field District Secretary, Vocational Rehabilitation Division, State Department of Education.

Brown:  How did you meet your husband Roy?  Please tell us about your family.

Galloway:  After a few years I met and married Roy.  He was a local boy who had just been discharged from the Air Force and had entered Ole Miss as a freshman, so we moved into campus housing—old  Camp Shelby barracks that had been converted into apartments—known as Vet Village.  Vet Village was a two-mile roundtrip to my office on the square and we didn’t have a car so I applied for a job on the campus.  

Brown:  Tell us how/when your career at Ole Miss began.  Please talk about the interview process.  With whom did you interview?  Who hired you?

Galloway:  Ken Faulkner hired me as an Account Clerk at the Physical Plant.  I walked into his office in one of the old wooden temporary buildings.  I waited for him to tell me to have a seat.  He did not.  He handed me a bunch of papers he had in his hand, said can you send these bills?  I said, yes, and he walked off.  Later he told me I was hired, and I would be paid, I believe, $1,500 a year.  Ken was a kind and considerate boss despite the gruff and rough façade he liked to use with students.  

Brown: Please tell us about the other positions you held during your time at Ole Miss.

Galloway:  After a while the lack of money was crucial, and I looked for a job that paid more and got lucky.  I was hired by Dr. John E. Phay in the Bureau of Educational and Institutional Research. This job really had no guidelines—we did what no other department wanted to do.  We received the beta lists from high schools and wrote the students inviting them to attend Ole Miss.  We did research as requested by the administration.  We were in charge of budgeting and hiring for summer school and assigning classroom space.  We were always busy with no clerical or secretarial help.  Dr. Phay was a jewel—one of my lifetime favorite people.  In fact, we still made our 1976 bicentennial quarter football bets after he retired and until he died.

Dean Farley requested that I come to the Law School for the summer to fill in for Grace Brown, a long-time valued secretary who wanted the summer off.  This summer was an interesting episode because it was the summer after the admission of James Meredith and the second African-American had been admitted to the Law School.  He came to class each day accompanied by U.S. marshals, and I was so hopeful that he would be accepted by the other law students.  When the summer was up, I went to the Personnel Office to locate another job and was hired on the spot by the director, Dr. James Webb.  I had found my niche!  

This was the first time I had dealt personally with the fantastic faculty who made Ole Miss so great!   Since I met the new faculty members on a one-to-one basis and prepared his/her contract each year thereafter, I knew each one.  I was given almost free reign in the office.   I was able to update it in several areas. For instance, employee information and correspondence had been filed chronologically in huge accordion-shaped folders.  I set up individual files for all past and present employees which meant they first had to be sorted alphabetically.  As you will note from my job changes, each department head hired and paid new employees as they wished as long as they had funds in their departmental budgets.  I got permission to establish a clerical classification system that held jobs at the same level and salary, campus-wide.   The professional organization, CASE, asked that I write a “How To…” article on establishing a classification system—which I did—and they used it in their training sessions.  At the time there was no central source for forms, procedures, or instructions, and I spent many hours locating forms, publications, and other information employees might need.  The result was that I compiled and edited The University of Mississippi Personnel Policies and Procedures, the “big red book” as it came to be known.   I believe it was the first policies and procedures handbook used at Ole Miss.  CASE also requested that I give them a how-to article on a policies and procedures handbook, which I did.

The University was contemplating setting up a Foundation, and the Chancellor asked if I would work with Mr. Brunini, the University Attorney, in finalizing the structure and complete setting up the basic office in the Alumni House.  The first time I walked through the door, I saw one telephone, one empty file cabinet, one extra desk, and one bewildered secretary who turned out to be an angel.  I had to start with things like stationery, business cards, alumni lists, etc.   As Coordinator of Annual Giving, it was part of my job to receive, receipt, and deposit all gifts to the Foundation in addition to my fund-raising duties.  Remember these were all days before computers.  With the help of dedicated alumni, the Foundation soon became one of the highlights of the University.

I had a call one day from Henry Coon, President of Northwest (then) Junior College (NWJC)  asking me to set up a foundation for them.  After some discussion, I agreed to join the NWJC team for no more than three years.   When I went to NWJC, I had another shock!  They had no alumni lists, no information on former employees—nothing to work with.  I spent months in the library going through annuals, cheerleading rosters, football programs, anything to get names,  I then persuaded the registrar to let me use addresses in that file and gradually had something to work with.  Meanwhile, I had received the Charter, the tax numbers, and other legal materials to start the foundation.  Then I started on my fund-raising efforts for a few months before my time was up  I was embarrassed to give a report at my first board meeting because I was comparing what I had raised there in the first few months to what we were doing at Ole Miss.  But when I gave the directors my bottom line of $65,000 for four months, they were ecstatic!  They had never dreamed that people would really give money to the school!

Brown:  Please tell us about the other positions you held at Ole Miss.

Galloway:  When I came back to Oxford and Ole Miss, I lacked only a few months to get my 30 years in state retirement and looked for a short-term job.  I worked for a short time in Biology and then transferred to the Marijuana Project in the School of Pharmacy under the direction of Dr. Mahmoud A. ElSohly.  After we got to know each other, Dr. ElSohly shared his desire to have his own lab.  When questioned as to why he did not start one, he reminded me that his basic education was in Egypt and that he did not have a basic understanding of American business.  We talked more, and I suggested since he was outstanding in the science field and that I knew a little bit about the business that we give it a try.  I retired from the University on April 1, 1985, and the charter for ElSohly Laboratories, Incorporated (ELI), was issued on April 15, 1985.  I served the lab as Executive Vice President for two decades.

Bettye at ElSohly Laboratories, Incorporated (ELI).

Brown:  Talk about when/why you got involved in the Exchange Club.

Galloway:  Soon after we started ELI, Dr. Elizabeth Keith., who was Director of PDLA labs, invited me to the Oxford Exchange Club.  I was impressed with the other members and the programs. I knew that Dr. Porter L. Fortune had been the National Director of Exchange when the University hired him as Chancellor, so I thought it must be a good organization.   When Elizabeth sponsored me for membership, I accepted, and  Exchange became an important part of my life for the next two decades.  I involved myself in club projects, especially the foremost project, Child Abuse Prevention, and as time passed I was elected President of the Oxford club.  One of my proudest moments as president was when the members brought in new members for a total of 108 members, making us the largest club in the district.  The next year I ran for and was elected as a District Director. Then I ran unopposed for District President and became the very first female District President.  At the national meeting of new District Presidents, I was elected Spokesperson for National District Presidents.  After my tenure as District President, I was elected Trustee of the National Foundation for the Prevention of Child Abuse, a position I held until my resignation from Exchange due to pressing business obligations, family situations, and the illness and death of my husband. 

I have plaques and citations hanging all over my house.  My name is on them, but they were won by all the great members of Exchange—the members who made so many good things happen in child abuse prevention.  I was unexpectedly honored a couple of times at National Conventions by the National President with a special President’s Award.  But the icing on the cake was at a National Convention where I was given the National Exchangite of the year award.  It was the first time it was given and the award represented tens of thousands of Exchangites across America.  Nothing will ever top that.

Bettye accepting the inaugural National Exchangite of the Year Award in 2001.

Bettye with the National District Presidents, 2001.

Brown:  What was your favorite age, and why?

Galloway:   I think my early years, especially the summers I spent at Lafayette Springs, would be the favorite time of my life.  These were days without worries or cares, a time, as I mentioned earlier, when I pulled off my shoes for the summer, waded in the creeks and hunted and fished with my friends in the community.  I helped in the garden, learned to milk the cow, to pick the peaches in the orchard, and to help my mother can the fruit.  It was a time of no telephones, no clocks, and no calendars, nothing but fresh air and sunshine.  Who could not love time like that?  

Brown:  What are the most useful skills you have?  What skills do you think everyone should have?

Galloway:  My mother was convinced that children should grow up in the country but be educated in town, and due to our family’s financial situation she unwittingly accomplished her goal.  I think she instilled in me my most important skill, not in a single item or avenue, but in a lifestyle.  From my earliest remembrance, she would start reading a book to me; as soon as she decided I was interested in the story, she would hand the book to me to continue.  She had a motive in teaching me to read early.  Every time I would ask her a question, her stock answer was “Look it up.”  Consequently, I think the most important skill I have is the desire and the ability to “Look it up.”    “Looking it up” is a skill that would open up a world of information to anyone who would take advantage of it.

Norine Hudson, Bettye’s mother, in her nineties.

Brown:  What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are? 

Galloway:   I don’t think there were any specific events in my life that could be described as life-changing.  You’ll laugh, but there was a time when I was probably a senior in high school that I was given the DAR Good Citizenship Award.  This was the first time I felt that I was noticed by somebody, and suddenly I felt that I was capable of stepping out from the crowd and making something of myself.  It’s amazing how small things can make a difference in one’s life.

Brown:  What would your family and friends say is your best trait?

Galloway:   I think I would like them to speak for themselves.  I hope they would say she is a good friend.   I love my friends.  Some have been friends for over 70 years.  I don’t necessarily agree with their religion or politics and they feel the same way about mine, but they are great friends because of who or what they are.   The one thing that makes me angry is the day when someone I considered a friend lies to me. But I don’t lose sleep over that because that is the day when that person is no longer a friend. 

Brown:  What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to date?

Galloway:  I enjoyed every job I ever held, including part-time jobs when I was in school.  They all gave me two things—a chance to learn something new and a chance to meet new and interesting people.  I feel like I provided a service and left things a little bit better than I found them in every situation.

I enjoyed my work career, but I feel my greatest accomplishment is being a part of a wonderful family.  My daughter Leigh is an Ole Miss graduate, my son-in-law Jim is a University of Memphis graduate, my granddaughter Julia graduated from Lindenwood University, and my granddaughter Jackie graduated from the University of Memphis.  All have very successful careers and are a loving, caring family.   And they love me.  I wish others could be so lucky.

Bettye’s daughter Leigh with granddaughters Jackie and Julia.

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. For questions or comments, email her at