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eagle tale

illustration by Shannon Mooney ('94)The lab assistant by William Foxworth 'Bill' King ('51)

The end of World War II in 1945 brought a rapid influx of veterans going to college with financial help from the G.I. Bill. The Gilmer-Aikin Bill in Texas brought many teachers back to take classes in the summer. By the late 1940s, colleges and universities were expanding facilities to accommodate the growth.

At North Texas, the drafty old Quonset huts used for housing and classrooms were being abandoned, and new buildings were going up. Bruce Hall was under construction, and I hauled materials for Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber Co. for its completion.

The new science building, to be called Masters Hall after W.N. Masters, a prominent former head of the chemistry department, was soon to follow. The chemistry and biology departments were to share the new building.

In 1950, as a senior pre-medical student and laboratory assistant for the biology department under Drs. J.K.G. Silvey and David Morris, I had helped move all the equipment, materials, specimens and supplies from the old science hall on Avenue A and Hickory to the new building, just south of Marquis Hall. We had almost completed the move but were still in the old building.

One early morning, after chasing run-away Phi Alpha Tau (now Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity) pledges until after midnight, I left my home on Locust Street and drove to school in my 1927 Model T Ford, "Betsy" ( her photo can be seen here).

On my desk was a note informing me that Dr. Morris had had emergency surgery and I was to take over his anatomy and physiology class for home economics and medical technology majors for the rest of the semester — beginning that day.

After having been responsible for only the lab portion of the class, I now would also be responsible for the lectures, testing and grading. I was a biology major but had never actually taken that particular class.

There was no time to indulge in fear or excitement, honor or prowess; the first class began in 10 minutes. It went well, as did the remaining ones in the course.

Before the semester was over, we moved into the new science building, and I felt privileged to deliver the first lecture in the new, modern, state-of-the-art lecture hall with the electrically controlled projection screen — a real thrill for a young undergraduate.

Although no faculty member ever contacted me to find out how I was doing or what I was doing, I did have some help grading papers from a friend to whom I will be married 50 years in 2004.

I finished the remaining six weeks of the semester smoothly, and everyone passed. By the time Dr. Morris returned, I was in medical school at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Looking back on it, that North Texas teaching experience, as well as my time on the senior men’s debate team, gave me the self-confidence and gift of speech I needed to feel comfortable talking to any group — one-on-one, as would be required in my medical practice, or larger groups.

This ability continues to serve me well. Some even say it’s hard to get me to shut up.


About the author

Bill King ('51) received his medical degree from Northwestern University in Chicago in 1955. He served in the Army and had a general family practice in Pueblo, Colo., before working in radiology in the North Texas and Oklahoma areas. In addition to teaching and debating at North Texas, he was a member of Phi Alpha Tau fraternity, the Gammadions, Alpha Chi, Blue Key, Beta Beta Beta, the W.N. Masters Chemical Society and the Religious Council. He married medical technology major and paper-grading assistant Eugenia Ruth McKinney ('52) in 1954.

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