The queen of hospitality

Bessie Mae and Joe PryorShe was the epitome of grace, style, warmth and hospitality.

She also was one of the sweetest and kindest Christian ladies I have ever had the privilege of knowing. You could see Christ’s presence permeating her life.

She was Bessie Mae Ledbetter Pryor, whose funeral is today. She was 92.

Her late husband, Dr. Joe Pryor, was the longtime academic dean and yearbook advisor at Harding, and I was one of the yearbook kids who was invited into the Pryor home each fall for a delicious meal to kick off the year. My senior year I edited the Petit Jean, and the Pryor’s youngest daughter, Susan, was editing the Academy section, which was still included in the college book then. We soon became good friends and share laughs over that year to this day.

One Friday afternoon near deadline time, staffers were bemoaning our normal cafeteria fare for the evening meal. Our groans did not fall on deaf ears as Susan quickly made a call home, and we were soon the Pryor’s guests eating one of those delicious home-cooked meals Bessie Mae was known for in the Pryor’s home located next to the Student Center. We were made to feel like welcome guests, rather than a group of kids who had basically invited ourselves over for dinner!

It is just one example of the many ways Bessie Mae served us and so many other students. A 40-year sponsor of Regina social club, many girls felt her loving care in their lives as did the boys of TNT social club, which Dr. Joe sponsored.

She and Dr. Joe were the couple I most admired as a student. Those of us who experienced it will never forget their love and dedication to the students of Harding.

Our hearts go out to her daughters, Beverly Jo and Susan, and her granddaughter, current Harding student Audrey Hodges. Heaven is definitely a little nicer now.

Tom Buterbaugh, editor/designer


  1. Sara Barton’s avatar

    Bessie Mae was so kind to me when I was a Harding student. I will never forget her.


  2. Susan Pryor Hodges’s avatar

    Thank you sweet friend for these precious words. She was a one of a kind lady who loved all who were around her. She loved having students in our home, and I think God gifted her with the right talents and placed her in the perfect place to use her talents to His glory.


  3. Teresa McCown’s avatar

    We need more role models like Mrs. Pryor.


  4. Deborah Payne’s avatar

    Bessie Mae was a classmate of my mother, Mildred Teffertiller Hindman, and she and Dr. Joe welcomed me to Harding with open arms. She was the epitome of graciousness. My deepest sympathy to Beverly Jo and Susan. Deborah Hindman Payne.


  5. Sherry Davis Charles’s avatar

    THANKS TOM. My same thoughts also as I was on the yearbook staff during my years at Harding and remember Bessie Mae through my work with Associated Women of Harding when I was Searcy president.


  6. Lina Leatherwood Burk’s avatar

    Bessie Mae was the heart of Harding to me. I am so grateful I was a Regina (the only nonsinging Regina ) and experienced her kindness and hospitality. What a blessing!


  7. Carolyn Watts Blount’s avatar

    Bessie Mae was a blessing in my life! She loved and served unconditionally to her family and many others. I was in Regina and got to know her and be in her home. She and my mother, Kay Watts, were friends, and Bessie Mae had my wedding shower in her home. Praying for you, Beverly Jo and Susan, as you walk through this loss. May you receive healing, comfort and peace in the coming months.



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