Jerry Summers - Betty Bean Knoxville Reporter

Thursday, June 17, 2021 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

When the names of female reporters in Tennessee who pioneered in the field of journalism arises one individual's name stands out in the Knoxville area.

            As a writer for the Knoxville Journal, Knox Tenn Today, Metro Pulse, Knoxville Scene, and the Shopper News for 30 years or more, Betty Bean has interviewed and profiled many prominent and non-prominent individuals during those decades.

            From Cas Walker to Lillian Bean, Knox County Court Clerk, head of the alleged Bean Machine, Betty has also covered all of the important and non-important events in Knoxville.

            During that time, she has reported on many of the zany and often comical actions of Knoxville grocer, politician, country music show host, and coon dog hunter, the late Cas Walker.

            Betty was not beyond being critical of Walker’s “Farm and Home Hour” that was on all three Knoxville television channels on the 5:30 to 7 a.m. slot in the 1960s.

            She described the country music as “whiny, nasal, irritating and embarrassing” to her when her relatives from other parts of the country came to visit during the summertime.

            Yet she spoke favorably about Cas’ efforts to raise money for the charitable “Milk Fund” he supported over the years before and after he was able to leave a Blount County nursing home after being a resident there for four years in 1990 and return to his Knoxville home after the death of his wife, Ginny.

            She regularly reported on the positive and negative aspects of Cas and other office holders and their political careers.

            The famous fight photo between Cas Walker and fellow City Council member Jimmy Cooper that appeared in Life Magazine was revealed to Betty Bean that it was a put up job between the two politicians.

            Betty also reported on an on-the-air confrontation of Cas’ television show which resulted in fisticuffs between Cas Walker and Democratic Party activist Mary Tindell that led to felonious assault charges when he allegedly kicked her in the posterior, and she knocked out three of his teeth. However, the Knox County grant jury refused to indict Walker.

            Her reporter career spans many years including work at the Knoxville Journal until it ceased publication on December 31, 1991.

            In June 1992 she joined the staff of the Metro Pulse, a magazine that was started in August 1991 that consisted of a pool of University of Tennessee writing students and refugees from Whittle Communications.

            When she started doing an occasional piece for the Pulse, she was described as the “Latin bombshell and Journal investigative firebrand, Betty Bean.”

            This was probably because of her being the widow of the late Joseph P. Sbuttoni, Jr. who died in a car wreck in 1968 in West Germany when Betty and his daughter were also injured.

            However, her career with the fledgling magazine ended when she allegedly quit on August 1, 1993, to go to work for a community newspaper serving the two areas of Knox County of Halls and Fountain City known as the Halls/Fountain City Shopper-News.

            She currently writes informative, historical, and political articles weekly for the web paper, Knox Scene at KnoxTNToday.com

            Just like her relationship with Cas Walker (she was one reporter that he liked), she provides interesting, entertaining, and often controversial articles to the reader ever Thursday.

            One of her 2021 articles reported that the Knoxville Republican Party “dodged a big hairy bullet” when it tried and failed in 2020 to secure embattled Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz as its featured speaker for their annual political dinner.

            Betty Bean, like her and fellow journalists, Nellie Kenyon of the Chattanooga Times and Nashville Tennessean and Drue Smith of both the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga News Free Press, has always been an informative advocate for freedom of the press and the right of the public to know the news in East Tennessee.

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)

           

Betty Bean
Betty Bean

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