Josephine Elizabeth “Joe Betsy” Miller Allred, pianist, composer, teacher, and wife of Texas governor James V Allred, was born on October 15, 1905, in Altus, Oklahoma. She was the daughter of Claude and Daisie Mae (Kimberlin) Miller. She lived her early years on a farm near Altus before moving with her family to Oklahoma City and then at age thirteen to Wichita Falls, where she attended high school. Joe Betsy matriculated at Southern Methodist University, where she was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, majored in music, was trained as a music supervisor, and earned a teaching certificate. She was an accomplished classical pianist, and she continued her musical studies at Glenn Dillard Gunn Conservatory in Chicago and then in New York before she returned to Texas.
When Joe Betsy Miller was sixteen, she performed a piano recital in Wichita Falls, which was attended by James V Allred. Six years later the couple was married on June 20, 1927. They made their home in Wichita Falls, where Joe Betsy was a substitute teacher in the Wichita Falls school system and taught a Bible class at the First Christian Church. The couple moved from Wichita Falls to Austin when Allred was elected attorney general in 1930. Joe Betsy Allred was twenty-nine and the youngest first lady in Texas history when her husband was elected governor in 1935. The couple had three children: James Jr., born in Wichita Falls; David, born in Austin; and Sam Houston, born in the Sam Houston bed in the Governor’s Mansion while his father was governor. The couple moved again, to Houston, at the end of Allred’s second gubernatorial term in 1939, when he was appointed to a federal judgeship by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with whom the Allreds enjoyed a close relationship. In 1949 Allred was appointed to a federal judgeship in Corpus Christi by President Harry S. Truman.
Mrs. Allred was a homemaker and “restricted her club interests” as their family grew, but she was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Mu Phi music sorority, held an “honorary membership” in the Wednesday Morning Music club, and was involved in Austin’s Central Christian Church during her family’s time in the capital city. Mrs. Allred made her mark on the Governor’s Mansion, as she was known to have brought as many as 500 Polyantha rose bushes to the grounds and gardens, keeping them, when in season, in “glorious bloom.” She also restored some pieces of antique furniture. She was a patron of the arts and was a strong supporter of the Austin Symphony. Known for her graciousness, Allred was also noted as being “approachable and responsive to a degree, even while exercising to an unusual degree in the wife of a chief executive the right to lead her own life and maintain the home life which she feels is the right of her family.” She kept a grand piano, which had been a gift to her from her father when she was five years old, in the master bedroom at the Governor’s Mansion during the family’s time there, and Joe Betsy made it a daily ritual to practice her playing in this retreat rather than at the grand piano in the mansion’s first floor rear drawing room. In addition to her talent as a pianist, she was a composer and set to music David Crockett’s poem “Farewell to My Country” for the Texas Centennial.
While living in Houston, Joe Betsy Allred helped establish a home for the aged in that city. James Allred died in 1959 while serving as a U.S. district judge and residing in Corpus Christi, after which Joe Betsy returned to Wichita Falls and was a music teacher in a nearby school district for eleven years. In her later years, she served on a board that established Texhoma Christian Care, a nursing home in Wichita Falls. She also served on the board of Texas Alcohol Narcotics Education, Inc., a nonprofit group aiming to prevent drug abuse through education. Josephine Elizabeth Miller Allred died at the age of eighty-seven on June 7, 1993, in a Wichita Falls hospital after a brief illness. She had played piano up until a few weeks before her death when her condition prevented it. She was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls.