Mary Badham: To Kill A Mockingbird


Veeka Malanchuk, Staff Writer

Mary Badham, who played the role of Scout Finch in the influential movie To Kill A Mockingbird, spoke on a grant in chapel on Wednesday Feb 28. Karen Bennett and Melinda Holmes worked together on the grant for Badham to speak.


“We did our research and contacted Mrs. Badham through Facebook. We heard back that she would be interested and Mrs. Holmes and I put forth for a Thatcher Grant,” Bennett said.


Librarian Melinda Holmes thought that Badham’s message would be relevant and beneficial to the student body.


“Mrs. Bennett had seen Mrs. Badham speak before and said our students could get a lot out of her because the issues that are happening in the book are current to what’s happening in the world today which is sad because it was written in the 1960s and that was a long time ago and we are still having these issues, ” Holmes said.


In Badham’s speech, she spoke about how the character Atticus had an impact on her while filming the movie and many years later.


“Gregory Peck was very much an Atticus. What you see on film is what we had at home and his daughter and I are still very close. My husband and I have been married for 45 years because he was my best friend, and I took that lesson from Atticus. Find your own Atticus; find that role model,” Badham said.


Badham also spoke about the cultural differences between Birmingham, Alabama, and Los Angeles, California.


“Things were very different in Los Angeles versus Birmingham. In Los Angeles, it was totally different. We had friends of color and when I was in Los Angeles we would go to our friends’ houses and it didn’t make any difference. But when I got back to Alabama if a black man so much as looked me in the face they could be beaten to death. It was a dangerous time,” Badham said.


Badham strongly believed that learning and sharing experiences with other people was important.


“Whether you’re rich, whether you’re poor, you each have lived life. Your experiences in life are critical to your survival and when you share that knowledge you never know what life’s gonna give you. And it’s critical that you learn to take care of one another,” Badham said.


Badham also spoke her opinion on modern day Hollywood and its films.


“Some film is very good, but there’s a lot of garbage out there. It starts with good writing, your English class is one of the most important classes because that’s how it [good films] starts,” Badham said. “And that’s what made Mockingbird so good. They took that book, even though it is a tiny read, there’s a lot in there. It has all of life’s lessons. And in film they had to hone that book down, so they could have it up on screen. And you have to do that with film.”


Badham reflected on the time she met the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, and the hardships that fame brought her.


“She wasn’t really a recluse, she would hide from the press because the press is very invasive, and want to get in your business. I hear a lot of kids say ‘I want to be famous’ you don’t know what fame is until you can’t walk down the street, go to the grocery store without having to stop. It almost like we live in a little town. It is not fun,” Badham said.


Badham shared her visit to the White House for the 100th anniversary of the film with the students.


“Going to the White House was such an honor, and my goal in life was to meet president Obama. I just thought he was one of the greatest people. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was lovely,” Badham said.


When asked what the most important message from the novel, Badham addressed  racial equality.


“I don’t want to go backwards in time, I don’t want to see black people dragged in the streets, I don’t want to see them not able to walk in any place they want. It should not matter, it’s the person inside that counts and we have to remember that. We have to fight against that or our country will fall to pieces,” Badham said. “Ignorance is the root of all evil and education is the key to freedom. That’s what I believe in, and I believe in all the lessons we have to learn from To Kill a Mockingbird.


The speech was wrapped up with a question and answer session from the students.


“I really enjoyed hearing her response. I think it’s easy to feel separated from issues when you are just reading the news, but hearing someone talk to you about their personal experiences makes it more impactful,” senior Emily Edwards said.


Badham’s speech became controversial among students and teachers due to its political nature and her inability to stay on topic.


“I found her speech to be polarizing rather than pertaining to the message that To Kill a Mockingbird so beautifully bodies,” English teacher Greg Marshall said.


While Badham’s speech was controversial, there were still lessons that could be taken away from her speech.


“I hope it just gives pause for a moment, and the next time somebody thinks about saying something unkind or off putting to someone that they stop and think ‘what if it was said to me,’” Bennett said. “You know that’s the best message you can give.”