Archive for Thursday, February 2, 2006

Who was Bill Studdard?

February 2, 2006

Bill Studdard had an exceptional memory. He was a guard at the Kansas State penitentiary from 1939 until the mid-1960s. Bill could recall names and numbers without fail.

It started out as a hobby, but he learned his memory would also help him with different tasks at the penitentiary. The inmates and prison officials had tested him many times. He seldom failed.

He moved around at many different job assignments and would observe, whether it was watching visitors come into the penitentiary or work crews leaving to do outside assignments. He could record information into his encyclopedic memory - their numbers, names and faces. This information served as a double check when they returned. This was no challenge to his memory.

There were times when an inmate would leave the penitentiary, break his parole and come back to prison, only to have Bill call out his correct number upon seeing him. Bill memorized 900 inmates' numbers, their home address, the length of sentence and the nature of the offense.

He only had an eighth-grade education, but Bill was an avid reader. During World War II, he wrote to many local young men who were in the service. When they came home, they would tell me that they heard from him at least once a week.

Bill had great interest in major league baseball. I remember that he could always just at the drop a hat tell you about the vital statistics of recent games or past World Series games.

Before Lansing was incorporated, we had a softball field at Kansas Avenue and Main Street, and Bill took it upon himself to help raise the money to put lights on that field. He had a personality that no one could turn down, so he collected enough money to put the first lighted softball field in Lansing.

Bill and his wife, Thelma, lived at 206 S. Main Street (no longer exists) and they raised two children, George and Rose, who both graduated from Lansing High.

Note: There are many memory systems that people can learn, and our Lansing Library has books on the subject. Check them out.

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