Being tops is all in the genes

Published: Sunday, June 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 30, 2008 at 9:12 p.m.

Lauren Hudson's graduation from Bell High School on Friday will involve more than the usual traditions of donning a cap and gown and smiling for photos. In Hudson's family, high school graduation also means being named valedictorian or salutatorian.

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Lauren Hudson, the salutatorian of the Bell High School class of 2008, represents the fourth generation of her family to serve as valedictorian or salutatorian at the Gilchrist County school.

Karen Voyles/The Gainesville Sun

Hudson represents the fourth generation of her family to serve as one of the top two graduates from the rural Gilchrist County high school.

"I've known about this tradition in my family for a few years now," said Hudson. "I think my dad or my grandma told me about it when I was co-valedictorian in eighth grade."

The family tradition began in the 1930s - the exact year is lost in family and school records - when the late Ruth Philman Akins was named valedictorian of the high school. She went on to serve as Bell's postmistress.

In 1961, Akins' daughter, Patsy Akins Avery, was named class salutatorian. Following high school Avery worked for the former Barnett Bank and at the Gilchrist County Clerk's office.

Avery's son, David Hudson, was valedictorian of the Bell High class of 1980. Hudson is now a lab supervisor at the cement plant owned by Suwannee American outside Branford.

Lauren Hudson said a single B grade - from ninth grade physical education - was all that stood between her and this year's Bell valedictorian, Daniel Powell.

"My parents never had to really stress good grades to me," Hudson said. "Getting good grades was something I couldn't help doing."

Hudson plans to study criminal justice at Lake City Community College, then return to the Bell area to raise a family. But before she can begin work on any of those plans, Hudson needs to come up with a speech for her own graduation.

"I'm not sure exactly what it will be about," Hudson said. "I read my dad's speech and it was about the new decade and the changes that would bring. I want to write something that will mean something to my class and I'm still working on that."

Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or

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