54th Scripps National Spelling Bee

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54th Scripps National Spelling Bee
The Capital Hilton, site of the 54th National Spelling Bee
DateJune 3–4, 1981
LocationThe Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C.[1]
WinnerPaige Pipkin
ResidenceDenver, Colorado
SponsorEl Paso Herald-Post
Sponsor locationEl Paso, Texas
Winning wordsarcophagus
No. of contestants120
PronouncerAlex Cameron (first time as chief pronouncer)
Preceded by53rd Scripps National Spelling Bee
Followed by55th Scripps National Spelling Bee

The 54th Scripps National Spelling Bee was held in Washington, D.C. at the Capital Hilton on June 3–4, 1981, sponsored by the E.W. Scripps Company.

The winner was 13-year-old Paige Pipkin of El Paso, Texas, who had placed second in the prior year's bee.[2][3][4] 12-year-old Jason Johnson Jr. of St. Joseph, Michigan placed second, missing "Philippic". Pipkin spelled that word correctly followed by "sarcophagus" for the win. Pipkin had earlier missed "vitrine" but Johnson also missed it.[3] Third-place went to 13 year old Danielle Marie Spinelli of Staunton, Virginia, who missed "polyonymous".[5]

There were 120 spellers this year, and a total of 571 words were used. 46 spellers made it to the second day. Round 4 on day one was especially harsh on the contestants, knocking out 44 spellers on 90 words. The final rounds were completed shortly before noon on June 4. Alex Cameron was the official pronouncer for the first time, replacing Richard R. Baker, who had retired.[1][5] The top prize was $1,000, followed by $500 for second and $250 for third. The next five spellers reach received $100.[6]

Pipkin later joined the staff of the Bee,[7] and was named its executive director (under her married name Paige Kimble) in 2013.[8]


  1. ^ a b Ehst, William (4 June 1981). Texas Teen Wins National Bee; Berks Entry 61st, Reading Eagle
  2. ^ (3 June 1981). Letter Perfect the Goal, Argus Press (Associated Press)
  3. ^ a b (5 June 1981). 'Sarcophagus' wins for Texas teen, Lakeland Ledger (Associated Press)
  4. ^ Greene, Bob (15 June 1981). Casting a spell on America, Free Lance-Star (Field Newspaper Syndicate)
  5. ^ a b (5 June 1981). No mistakes this time, The Bulletin (UPI)
  6. ^ (8 June 1981). 2nd try spells success for 13-year-old Texas, Bangor Daily News (Associated Press)
  7. ^ (31 May 1989). Spelling Bee, Ellensburg Daily Record (UPI)
  8. ^ Micheli, Carolyn (2 April 2013). Paige Kimble promoted to executive director of Scripps' nationally renowned spelling bee, Scripps.com