Bettina Pearson Higdon: A Brilliant Woman

Sharon Schuler Kreps/CullmanSense
I remember her as being one of the best librarians at the Cullman Public Library that they ever had….always helpful, always friendly.”
Charlotte Rumore

CULLMAN – For those of you who remember Mrs. Bettina Pearson Higdon, I’m sure you will smile as you read this. For those of you, who don’t, please allow me to tell you a little bit about her. Bettina was a remarkably intelligent woman who enjoyed spreading her knowledge to everyone around her. She was a teacher who taught children of all ages throughout Cullman County. She was a librarian who ran the Cullman County Library System for a time, and she was also the wife of funeral home founder, Raymond Higdon of Higdon Funeral Home. 

Little Miss Bettina Blanch Pearson was born in Bessemer, Alabama on March 9, 1920 to Arthur Richmond and Mildred Celest (Bradley) Pearson. On Easter Sunday 1932, at the age of twelve, she joined the First United Methodist Church of Bessemer.  She also sang like a bird in the church choir.

In high school she was a member of the Glee Club, the National Honors Society and the A Club.

She was also a charter member of the Tri-Hi-Y and other various speech and drama groups. A smart little lady, she was valedictorian of her 1938 Bessemer High School graduating class. 

In 1941 she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Alabama College, which later became Montevallo, with a major in Mathematics and minor in Latin.

In 1960 she earned a Masters of Arts degree from Alabama College and in 1971 she earned a “Double A” or six years teaching certificate from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

On June 13, 1948, she married the love of her life, Raymond Earl Higdon.

At the time, Higdon was the local tax collector in Cullman and had been for many years.

At some point in his career, Raymond had become a licensed embalmer and would later retire from his tax collector position and open up his own funeral home on St. Joseph Drive, next door to the couple’s home. Higdon’s Funeral Home opened its doors to the public in December of 1975. 

Mrs. Higdon, as she was called by many youngsters throughout Cullman County, taught school from 1941 to 1973.

She left wonderful memories to everyone she came into contact. 

“I loved her,” said Pam Yancy, former student. “She was our Librarian at Baileyton Jr. High. I was an Aid. I loved her eclectic style.” 

“She was one of my teachers at Fairview,” said Sandra Bolzle. “I still remember her saying quite frequently, ‘Ask and you shall receive’.” 

Although she loved being a teacher, she eventually retired and became the director of Cullman County Public Library System. She was a terrific genealogist and devoted lots of her time putting together the genealogy section at the main library in Cullman. Keep in mind; this was before Wallace had their infamous genealogy collection.

“I remember her as being one of the best librarians at the Cullman Public Library that they ever had….always helpful, always friendly,” Charlotte Rumore beamed. 

Mrs. Higdon has been written up in the 1974-75 edition of ‘Who’s Who of American Women’ and in ‘Creative Personalities of the South’. She was named “Women of Achievement” by the Cullman Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1977.

She was an organizing member of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and of the North Central Alabama Genealogical Society and was affiliated with numerous educational and professional organizations. In 1982 she was honored by being named in the ‘Who’s Who in Genealogy and Heraldry’.

She sang in the choir at Cullman First United Methodist Church and directed the singing in the Bob Sapp Sunday School Class which used to be on the radio every Sunday. 

Raymond Higdon died unexpectedly on April 27, 1981 of an apparent heart attack leaving his grieving widow to learn the funeral home business. She later married Mr. James Burns of Birmingham.

Bettina Higdon Burns was a true treasure to the community. Sadly, she passed away Thursday, February 14, 2008 in Birmingham. She and Raymond never had children of their own, but thankfully there are many former students, colleagues, and friends scattered throughout the south to keep her memory alive and strong.