Author Dr. M. B. (Beverly) Spears discussed her book, “Unsolved: A Murder in the Solid South” at the Hartsville Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday, August 18 at the Hartsville Country Club. The book is of particular local interest because it explores the 1952 murder of prominent Darlington attorney James U. “Red” Watts. Spears explained it as, “the most notorious unsolved murder in our region in the 4th Judicial District of South Carolina.” She spent a year researching the book.
Spears read excerpts from “Unsolved” captivating club members, some who recognized the names and places she described.
“Watts was shot to death as he drove his car home from work one night. His body was found in the car in a field off U.S. Highway 52 north of Darlington. The two men who were charged in the murder were never convicted,” she said.
Spears noted that she had five pages, double-columned of people who had provided recollections and contacts about the event. She continues to talk about it and gather information, asking Rotarians more questions than were asked of her.
Spears grew up in Darlington and is a retired Francis Marion University English professor. She was the first woman at Francis Marion to earn the top teaching rank of professor. She spoke at Rotary as the guest and personal friend of Phillip Gandy. She is the author of two previous books. “Mineral Springs Road 1940s” is a collection of reflections on childhood memories of growing up on her grandfather Cap’s farm on Mineral Springs Road near Darlington from the perspective of a 9-year-old girl. “County” is a similar collection about her life as a teenager growing up in Darlington city in the 1950s.
The book is dedicated to her father, George (Mac) Spears, Jr. She said she wished he had been alive to see the murder solved and have closure. She’s still working on it. Copies of her book were available for purchase and after the meeting she autographed them.