A Remarkable Evening With Scout

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An Evening With Scout. Mary Badham and Harold George converse on stage. photo 2016

It was one of the most poignant literary pieces of the century. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” written by Harper Lee, was the 2016 St Johns Reads book of the year. With activities held throughout the county in conjunction with the reading, it all came to a head on Saturday night at the St Augustine Amphitheater with a question and answer period entitled “An Evening With Scout” and a showing of the movie.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” became a classic of modern American literature. Published in 1960, the novel went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. The story takes place in the 1930’s, during the depression, in the Deep South. It attacks such subjects such as racial injustice, oppression and childhood innocence. In 1962 it was made into a movie featuring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the compassionate lawyer and Mary Badham, who portrays six year old Jean Louise Finch (Scout). Badham was later nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Scout.

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Badham and George on stage. photo 2016

Saturday night at the amphitheater, with two living room chairs set upon the stage, Badham was joined by Harold George of the St Johns County Library extension office. The atmosphere was warm as close to a thousand people looked on to hear the story and life lessons from Badham. For almost an hour, George asked Badham questions about her life and her experience as Scout. The questions were collected from posts on the library’s Facebook page as well as  collected at the various month long events.

The evening began with a moment of silence in remembrance of author, Harper Lee, who passed away on February 19, 2016 at the age of 89. “This is the coolest program we have ever done,” stated George as he welcomed the crowd. “We enjoy bringing people together.”

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Mary Badham played Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird in 1962. photo 2016

Badham came on stage to a round of applause. She shared her story of how she was chosen for the part of Scout. Living in Birmingham, 10 year old Badham was escorted to the audition by her actress mother. “My dad was 60 years old when I was born and he didn’t want me to have anything to do with the movie, but my mom said-”Now Henry dear, what are the chances that the child will get the part anyway?” Badham was chosen from over 4000 children. “They wanted real children without acting experience,” said Badham. “My mother never left me alone on the set…ever!”

Badham was eloquent and free with her answers. She has traveled the world to share her story. Throughout her travels, she has seen the impact the book has had on all generations. “This story has so much to say about an integral time in our history.”

According to Badham, her time at the Obama White house was one of the highlights of her life. Badham didn’t read the book until her daughter was two years old. “The book has all the life lessons and is a great education tool.” Badham said. “A great book is one that sticks with you in your heart-I think this is a great book!”

Along with the movie experience, Badham expressed the importance of families and the impact adults can have on children. “While on the set they made us (the children) feel so secure,” shared Badham. “We have to listen to our children and guide them down the stream of life. Strong families mean a strong community.”

As the talk came to a close, Badham expressed the importance of reading as well as the importance of an education. “If you teach a kid to read they will never be bored,” she declared. A serious look came upon Bodham’s face as she looked toward the audience. With the request to repeat after her, Badham called, “Ignorance is the root of evil and education is the key to freedom!”

As Badham left the stage, the movie “To Kill A Mockingbird” came on the big screen. Bundled up with blankets and pillows and munching on popcorn and drinking hot cocoa, the audience was ready to learn…”You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch.