16th Scripps National Spelling Bee

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16th Scripps National Spelling Bee
Date May 28, 1940
Location Auditorium of the National Press Building, Washington, D.C.[1]
Winner Laurel Kuykendall
Age 14
Residence Pippin, near Cookeville, Tennessee[2]
Sponsor Knoxville News Sentinel
Sponsor location Knoxville, Tennessee
Winning word therapy
No. of contestants 22
Pronouncer Harold F. Harding[3]
Preceded by 15th Scripps National Spelling Bee
Followed by 17th Scripps National Spelling Bee

The 16th National Spelling Bee was held in Washington, D.C. on May 28, 1940. Scripps-Howard would not sponsor the Bee until 1941.

The winner was 14-year-old girl Laurel Kuykendall, correctly spelling the word therapy. Elizabeth O'Keefe, a 13-year-old girl from New Jersey, took second place after failing to correctly spell "plantain", followed by Eleanor Shea of Nebraska in third.[4]

There were 22 spellers this year, and the prizes were $500 for first, $200 for second, and $100 for third.[4][5][6][7]

Harold F. Harding of George Washington University was the pronouncer, he earned a round of applause when he slipped and spelled the word "fore" himself, instead of waiting for the speller to do so.[3]

Winner Laurel Kuykendall (married name Mullins) died in Caryville, Tennessee in 2004.[8][9]


  1. ^ Article, Louisville Courier-Journal ("The match is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in the auditorium of the National Press Club, the Bee will not be broadcast.")
  2. ^ (16 July 1940). Spelling Champion Is Girl of 14 From Tennessee's Hills, Milwaukee Journal
  3. ^ a b (28 May 1940). Pronounces Word, Spells It Himself, Akron Beacon Journal (paywall) ("Harold F. Harding, of George Washington university, official pronouncer for the national spelling bee finals, got a round of applause today when he pronounced the word "fore," then spelled it himself instead of watting for the speller, he blamed "nervous strain" for the slip")
  4. ^ a b (29 May 1940). Tennessee Girl Champ Speller, St. Petersburg Times (Associated Press)
  5. ^ (31 May 1940). National Spelling Bee Champ, Rome Daily Sentinel (photo)
  6. ^ (9 March 2011). And the Winner Is ..., Shorpy.com (1940 photo of top three)
  7. ^ (29 May 1940). Farm Girl Tops in Spelling Bee, Spokesman-Review (Associated Press)
  8. ^ LaFasto, Drew (31 May 2017). Knoxville student participates in the National Spelling Bee, WBIR-TV
  9. ^ Find a grave, Retrieved 1 February 2018