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|Jennifer Jones||Miss Dove|
|Robert Stack||Dr Tom Baker|
|Kipp Hamilton||Jincey Baker|
|Robert Douglas||Mr. John Porter|
|Peggy Knudsen||Nurse Billie Jean Green|
|Biff Elliot||Alexander Burnham|
|Chuck Connors||William 'Bill' Holloway|
|Jerry Paris||Maurice Levine|
|Mary Wickes||Miss Ellwood|
|Jennifer Jones||Miss Dove|
Miss Dove, commonly referred to as "the terrible Miss Dove," is a prim and proper geography teacher who governs her classroom with strict disciplinary rules, dependable habits and a common-sense approach to life's everyday challenges. To the citizens and former pupils of Liberty Hill, she is regarded as the epitome of gentility and wisdom.
On a typical day, her habits never varying, Miss Dove oils her creaking gate and walks to the schoolhouse, briefly stopping to address her neighbors along the way. As the school bell rings, she stands at the entrance to her classroom as each of her pupils line up and greet her with "Good morning, Miss Dove." During this morning's session, she reprimands David Burnham for swearing and tells him that he must remain after class and write "Nothing is achieved by swearing" twenty times in his notebook. During David's internment, Miss Dove suddenly feels a sharp pain at the base of her spine and tells David to run and tell his father that she is ill.
Miss Dove puts her head down on her desk and begins to think about the day when her father died and changed her life forever. She had met a promising new beau when her father suddenly died. After his death, she learns that her father, who was President of the local bank, "borrowed" a large sum of money and their home was heavily mortgaged. Miss Dove is determined to make the matter right and instructs Mr. Porter, the new bank president, that she will repay the debt by becoming a teacher. Mr. Pendleton visits Miss Dove and proposes marriage but she turns him down after she receives a call from Mr. Porter telling her that he has obtained a position for her at Cedar Grove School.
Miss Dove returns to the present when Dr. Baker and Rev. Burnham arrive and form a seat with their arms to carry her through the streets of Liberty Hill to the hospital. She is admitted to her room by a former student, Billie Jean, who chatters incessantly along the way. Billie Jean, who left Liberty Hill and had a child out of wedlock, has returned to her hometown and is smitten with a police officer named Bill Holloway. Miss Dove fondly recalls Bill and tells Billie Jean that he was one of her best pupils. In a flashback, she tells how he arrived to her classroom, a poor, ill-kempt boy with a bad reputation. Over the years, Miss Dove gave Bill odd jobs and even bought him a suit for his high school graduation. As Bill entered the Marines, he wrote to Miss Dove often, and when he returned to Liberty Hill, she was the first person he came to for advice about his future career.
The news of Miss Dove's hospitalization spreads and she is soon visited by her former students. Another flashback shows Maurice Levine when he came to Cedar Grove as a Jewish boy unable to speak English and was teased by his classmates. Miss Dove taught him to speak English and teaches her students the importance of respect toward all people. He becomes a successful playwright and Miss Dove even travels to New York to see his first play. Another visitor is Frederick Makepeace, who is doing time at the local jail for petty theft. Dr. Baker's wife, Virginia ("Jincey") recalls how Miss Dove offered her solace and direction after a failed engagement.
Dr. Baker informs Miss Dove that she must have surgery to remove a growth on her spine. Mr. Porter offers to get Miss Dove a skilled surgeon but she insists that Dr. Baker perform the surgery.
On the day of the surgery, classes are dismissed and the townspeople wait outside the hospital for news of Miss Dove's operation. As she awakes, Dr. Baker tells her that the operation has been a success and that she will be all right. As the bells begin to ring throughout the town, Billie Jean tells Miss Dove that school was dismissed. In typical fashion, Miss Dove tells Dr. Baker that he must inform Mr. Spivey, the principal of the school, that the children must be returned to their classes in order to study for the state proficiency exams the following week.