The National Achievement Award is the highest honor presented by the National Rivers Hall of Fame to those people who are making significant contributions to America’s waterways. The National Rivers Hall of Fame with members in 36 states is the only national museum telling the stories of the people of America’s rivers.
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Honored in 1994
Betty Bryant began her showboat career as a newborn in the early 1920s when she played the part of the baby in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She was raised on her family’s showboat and as it traveled up and down the Ohio River and tributaries until 1942.
Betty Bryant described her early years this way:
“The floating theater was my home and the river was my back yard. While other children were learning how to walk, I was learning how to swim, and I knew how to set a trotline, gig a frog, catch a crawfish, and strip the mud vein out of a carp by the time I was four. Dad called me a river rat . . . I was born at the tail end of a unique and delightful era and raised on one of the last showboats to struggle for survival against the devastating crunch of progress.”
Betty Bryant kept the memory of showboating alive by speaking, writing, and participating in major museum exhibits. She is the author of Here Comes the Showboat, published by University of Kentucky Press. When she died in 1999 at her home in Park Ridge, Illinois, she left her Showboat collection to the National Rivers Hall of Fame.