Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Beth Slater Whitson (1879-1930)

Songwriter Beth Slater Whitson was born in Goodrich, Hickman County, Tennessee, on December 1, 1879. Her parents were John H. Whitson and Anna Slater Whitson; her father was coeditor of the Hickman Pioneer newspaper. Beth Whitson began her extensive songwriting career in Hickman County. With the assistance of her younger sister Alice Whitson Norton, she composed lyrics to over four hundred songs and wrote poems and short stories, many of which were published in leading magazines of the early twentieth century. Her first major hit was “Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland” in 1909; it was followed the next year by “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” which is still performed today.

In 1913 Whitson and her family moved to Nashville where she and sister Alice continued to write and publish. Beth’s local biographer, Grace Baxter Thompson, remarked at the dedication of a state historical marker to Whitson’s career in 1978: “She gave beauty and color and enjoyment to her community from which those qualities have been far-reaching and long-lasting”

Beth was not only a prolific song writer, but also a gifted poet and a writer of wonderful short stories. One of those stories, “The Knitter Of Liege” was named as a National top fifty short story for the year 1916. Not to be outdone, Beth’s little sister Alice, also became widely known as a writer of prose and short stories. She also wrote several books. Most were children’s topics, but some had more adult tones. One was even on how to write and how and where to market one’s writings.

At left is a picture taken from a watercolor portrait of Beth Slater Whitson. The portrait was painted by Dr. I. B. Beale in 1989 and was given to benefit “Fairview Academy Project” which was a non-profit group dedicated to renovating a former private school of the same name in Centerville into a center for cultural activity for Hickman County, Tennessee. The project ran aground for lack of suitable funds, and the Hickman County Historical Society now has possession of this portrait. Click on the portrait itself for a better view of it and the painter as well.

Beth Slater Whitson died on April 26, 1930, and is buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. Her sister Alice Whitson Norton is buried nearby. She was born on August 31, 1885 and died on February 4, 1961.

Selected Bibliography

Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland (Song), 1909
Let Me Call You Sweetheart (Song), 1910
The Knitter of Liege (Short Story) 1916

Selected Links

Whiton’s entry in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture:

Whtison’s information on IMDb

Complete Discography: