Oldest Living Spelling Bee Champion Still Remembers His Winning Word, 70 Years Later (Exclusive)

William J. Cashore with his 1954 National Spelling Bee trophy, now and then.
Photo: Photo by Amy Cashore Mariani; Courtesy of the Cashore Family

In a fascinating journey down memory lane, William Cashore, the oldest living Scripps Spelling Bee Champion, reminisces about his triumph at the 1954 National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Now 84 years old and residing in Rhode Island, Cashore reflects on the significance of his victory and the impact it had on his life.

Seventy years ago, as a 14-year-old student at Malvern Prep School in Pennsylvania, Cashore clinched the prestigious title with remarkable composure and skill. Recalling the defining moment when he correctly spelled the word “transept” to claim victory, Cashore emphasizes the importance of meticulous preparation and a keen ear for language.

Following his win, Cashore embarked on a celebratory journey that included encounters with Vice President Richard Nixon, appearances on national television, and a warm reception in his hometown. Despite the accolades and attention that came with his triumph, Cashore remained grounded and focused on his academic pursuits.

Reflecting on his illustrious career as a neonatologist and his invaluable contributions to the field of medicine, Cashore attributes his success to his early passion for spelling and language. His enduring love for words serves as a testament to the profound impact of linguistic proficiency on one’s personal and professional growth.

As the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of his remarkable achievement, Cashore offers sage advice to aspiring spellers: prioritize attention to detail and cultivate a discerning ear for language. His journey from a spelling prodigy to a distinguished medical professional exemplifies the enduring value of linguistic prowess in shaping a successful and fulfilling career.