910 Monroe Evanston 60202

20 January 1992


Dear Family:


The day after Tracey's wedding last fall, Caitlin and I visited Melvin and Margaret Biggs at their home in New Hamp­shire. In addition to enjoying their warm hospitality, we had the unique opportunity to look through "Grandpa's scrapbook." The latter is a treasure trove of family memorabilia, put together over the years by J. Quincy and Zona Biggs, parents of Portia (Holly's mother) and Anita (mother of Jack, Steve, Dave, Nancy, and Chris), as well as Melvin.


The enclosed photo is from that scrapbook. Caitlin and I were very impressed when we first saw it, and I guess Mel and Margaret detected our interest. Without a word to or from us, Margaret undertook to have the photo reproduced and sent to Caitlin, along with the new negative. This pleasant surprise arrived here a couple of weeks ago. I decided to have some more copies made, and sent to Anita's children and grandchildren.


She has been dead for nearly 37 years now; as you probably recall, she lies next to the Old Man in Tallahassee. But the memory of her is still strong with me, and I suspect with every­ one else who knew her. I believe that it is important, espec­ially for her grandchildren, to know something of her. What follows is by no means a complete biography, but simply a few facts about her life, with a focus on her academic achievements and on the time of this photo (late 1921, just after her fifteenth birthday).



Mary Anita Biggs was born on 3 October 1906, in Buffalo, Missouri (Portia had been born in 1904). Buffalo was (and is) a small town in the southwestern part of the state, fifty or so miles from Rocky Comfort, the home village of her parents, John Quincy Biggs and Nancy Arizona Davidson (both are buried in Rocky). J.Q. was a minister in the Disciples of Christ Church; I presume he was a pastor in Buffalo in 1906.


The Biggs family moved from church to church every few years, all over the United States. I don't know the exact chronology, but I do know that Anita spent many of her grammar school and junior high years in Spokane, Washington and Moscow, Idaho. She was an outstanding student, and skipped a couple of grades along the way.


In the summer of 1919, the family moved from Moscow to Fort Worth, Texas. They drove all the way, a big adventure in the days before reliable motor cars or interstate highways (or even paved roads:). That fall, Anita entered Fort Worth High School, probably as a sophomore, a month before her thir­teenth birthday:


Anita graduated from Fort Worth High in January 1922. The enclosed photo is her senior class or graduation picture, pre­sumably taken a couple of months before graduation. It appeared in the Fort Worth daily newspaper, along with a story about her extraordinary academic achievements. As I recall, she set two separate Fort Worth High records: the youngest graduate ever, and the highest overall grade average ever---99.54%:


Shortly thereafter, the Biggs family of five (Melvin was born in Fort Worth in 1920) moved again, to Topeka, Kansas. Anita entered Washburn College, Topeka's municipal school, from which she graduated in 1925 at the ripe old age of 18: She majored in Mathematics and minored in French. I don't know whether she set any academic records at Washburn, or even whether Washburn had a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.


Anita never pursued any higher degrees, but she certainly had a lifelong zest for learn~-. I can recall her and the Old Man taking courses at FSU in Tallahassee in the early 1950s, just a year or so before her death. I remember their Spanish class especially, where they received the only As out of twenty or twenty-five students. She also spent untold hours trying to help each of her children fathom the murky depths of Latin con­jugations, declensions, etc.


Anita had great musical talent, especially with the piano. Grandma (her mother) sometimes alleged that she gave up a budding career as a concert pianist to marry the Old Man. I'm sure that this is a gross exaggeration, but she did play very well, and patiently tried to teach all five of us to do the same. The latter was a frustrating experience for both her and the child. She had mild success with Nancy, who stuck with the piano for a year or two. When she saw that the piano was a lost cause, she encouraged other musical instruments (trumpet, sax, drums, etc.), again without notable success. During our years in New Jersey, one of her great pleasures was trekking into New York City once a month for a symphony concert.


In summer 1925, the Biggs family moved to Zanesville, Ohio for another church. Portia and Anita, now college graduates, were still with their parents. Anita taught high school in Kirkersville, a village west of Zanesville, for the 1925-26 school year, at a salary of $1,800. She never told her students that some of the Ohio farm boys in her class were older than she was: I believe that Portia was also teaching school at this time.


Sometime in late 1926 or 1927, Portia and Anita left Zanesville for the excitement of New York City. There, among other jobs, Anita played the piano in a silent movie theater and taught piano to children. She met the Old Man in New York, at a time when he was a struggling young lawyer with a large Wall Street firm. They were married on 27 July 1929; Portia and Walter Hahn had married a couple of months before. Both weddings were small, performed by J. Quincy Biggs in Tonawanda, New York (near Buffalo), where J.Q. then had a church.


At this point, I'll leave the Anita Biggs Ream story. There's so much more to be told; I haven't even mentioned her special warm, sweet personality. I hope each of her grandchildren will continue to learn more about this extra­ordinary person---while there still are a few of us old fogies around to tell you about her:


Thanks again to Margaret for her thoughtfulness and efforts in making this photo available. If you would like more copies, perhaps of a different size, don't forget that I have the negative.