Charles T. Beaird: Wikis

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Charles Thomas Beaird

Member, Caddo Parish Police Jury (or county commission)
In office
1956–1960

Born July 27, 1922(1922-07-27)
Shreveport, Louisiana, USA
Died April 18, 2006 (aged 83)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Carolyn Williams Beaird (1923-2006, married 1943-2006)
Children Susan Lynn Beaird (1943), Marjorie Beaird Seawell (1947), and John Benjamin Beaird (1950) of Shreveport
Occupation Industrialist, college professor, newspaper publisher, philanthropist
Religion Non-theist
Champion of civil rights within the Republican Party

Charles Thomas Beaird of Shreveport, Louisiana, was an industrialist, investor, newspaper publisher, philanthropist, philosopher, college professor, world traveler, and civic leader. He was a self-identified "liberal Republican" politician and a champion of civil rights. Born in Shreveport to James Benjamin Beaird and Mattie Connell Fort Beaird. His mother died six weeks after his birth, and his father died when he was sixteen. According to his obituary, Beaird had to grow up quickly but developed a fierce intellectual independence.

Contents

Military service

On February 5, 1943, he was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps in Corpus Christi, Texas. He married Carolyn in Shreveport the next day and reported for duty in Fort Worth, on February, 8. He served first as a pilot instructor and then led a fighting squadron assigned to the recapture and holding of the Philippine Islands flying, among other planes, B-25s and the OS 2U torpedo bomber. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of captain and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Decorated Air Medal.

Early business ventures

In 1946, Beaird returned to Shreveport, where he became vice president of the J. B. Beaird Company, which his father had begun as a welding service in 1918. During the war, the company had grown to be a major manufacturer of metal products, with Charles Beaird's older brother, J. Pat Beaird, Sr., as president. Charles Beaird had worked there as a youth sweeping floors, so he knew the business literally from the ground up, a process that he would duplicate in his future enterprises.

Following the sale of that company, Beaird purchased a small chainsaw company founded by Claude Poulan and his brothers and renamed it Beaird-Poulan. According to his obituary, Beard built the company into the fourth largest maker of chainsaws in the world. The company was purchased by Emerson Electric in 1973, and Beaird became chairman of the Beaird-Poulan Division of Emerson. The company is particularly known for its WeedEater products.

Political career

In 1952, Beaird joined childhood friends in an effort to create a viable Republican Party in Shreveport, which had been an all-Democratic city since Reconstruction. Beaird became chairman of the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee in 1952. In 1956, he was elected to the Caddo Parish Police Jury (equivalent of county commission in other states). He was one of the first Republicans elected to any public office in Louisiana since Reconstruction. He was elected strictly at the local level of participation, for there was no Republican gubernatorial candidate even running in the general election held in the spring of 1956. Later that same year, Beaird managed the unsuccessful Fourth District congressional campaign of then Republican Littleberry Calhoun Allen, Jr., who challenged the popular incumbent Overton Brooks. After switching to Democratic allegiance, Allen would later win election as Shreveport's public utilities commissioner (1962–1970) and as mayor (1970–1978).

Beaird attracted national attention in 1956. He gave a seconding speech for the renomination of President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Republican National Convention, which met at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Though he entered politics as a conservative Republican, the influence of his wife, his three children, and other life experiences gradually changed him into a liberal. However, unlike Calhoun Allen, he did not join the Democratic Party — he remained a liberal voice in the largely conservative Louisiana GOP.

Education

He graduated from C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport and attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, where he joined the Black Horse Troop. He enrolled at the University of Michigan and joined Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and transferred to the University of Texas. With the outbreak of World War II, Beaird returned to Shreveport and enrolled at Centenary College. He met Carolyn there while waiting to enlist in the Naval Air training program.

Fascinated with philosophy, he re-enrolled at Centenary College, where he was already a trustee, earning his B.A. in 1966. He became a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and was accepted into the graduate program at Columbia University, where he achieved, according to his obituary "the most difficult thing I've ever done," earning the Ph.D. in philosophy in 1972 at the age of 50. With what he called his "academic union card," he returned as assistant professor of philosophy at Centenary College, where he taught for seven years. Later he would receive the Centenary Alumni Association's highest honor, induction into the Centenary Alumni Hall of Fame.

Civic leadership

Beaird was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas; a director of Winthrop Rockefeller's Winrock Enterprises in Arkansas, a member of the Young Presidents Organization; a partner in Westport Real Estate; a founder of the Centenary College Committee of 100; chair of the Citizens Committee on Desegregation for the Caddo Parish Schools; chair of the United Fund Campaign; vice president of the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, and co-chair of Shreveport's Biracial Commission.

The Shreveport Journal

Beaird was a trustee, treasurer and constant advocate for the American Rose Foundation. His affection for the rose and its worth as a symbol figured prominently in his next enterprise, the now defunct Shreveport Journal which he bought in 1976 from the Douglas F. Attaway (1910–1994) family. He changed it overnight from a fiercely conservative newspaper, which, under former editor George W. Shannon had frequently endorsed conservative candidates, both Democrats and Republicans in the heavily Democratic circulation area, into an aggressively liberal one, which rarely thereafter endorsed Republicans for office. Its symbol was the rose, which adorned the brief, complimentary verbal "roses" the Journal awarded frequently on its editorial page, and a real rose was always pinned to his lapel.

Under his leadership, the Journal crusaded for the fluoridation of Shreveport's water supply, which was accomplished through the efforts of the Republican Utilities Commissioner Billy J. Guin, who served from 1977-1978. Unlike other Louisiana newspaper publishers, Beaird championed labor unions, a rare phenomenon in the South.

When the Shreveport Journal, an afternoon paper, ceased daily publication in 1991, Beaird won an agreement with Gannett Co., owner of the Shreveport Times, a morning paper—with which the Journal had a joint operating agreement -- to continue to own a separate page of editorial opinion in The Times, published six days a week as the "Journalpage." This arrangement was unique in the world of journalism, in which the host paper had no control over the content of the separately owned page. Beaird's "Journalpage" won many awards. It was nominated as a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for 1994 — for a series on the proposed legalization or decriminalization of drugs, one of many unorthodox topics he chose for his writers to explore.

The "Journalpage" continued until December 31, 1999, or Beaird's death, whichever came first. The date was significant to Beaird, for, according to his obituary, he considered himself a child of the 20th Century, and he had long prepared for a spectacular Millennium's Eve party. At that gathering, he served a selection of the world's finest wines, collected after he became a student of winemaking.

Philanthropy

The Beaird Tower in downtown Shreveport; in the forefront is Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

Beaird's last career was managing investments and real estate, including the downtown Shreveport Beaird Tower, which had one of his symbolic roses at its top.

Another interest which he and Carolyn shared was philanthropy, but the obituary explains that the extent of their personal giving may never be fully known because much of it was done anonymously. They endowed two chairs at Centenary College and one at Union Theological Seminary in New York. They were among the donors who helped to restore the historic Strand Theatre in downtown Shreveport. They supported the McAdoo Hotel, serving the homeless, and the Buckhalter Hotel, for recovering alcoholics. They endowed the educational building at Galilee Baptist Church. They were contributors and leaders in the American Rose Center endowment trust. Beaird also fought to improve housing and living conditions in Ledbetter Heights, one of Shreveport's most impoverished neighborhoods.

According to the obituary, Beaird formed the nonprofit Charles T. Beaird Foundation in 1960. The foundation, guided by a board of directors drawn from the Beaird family, has donated millions to local nonprofit organizations.

Grave of Charles T. Beaird in Forest Park Cemetery

Beaird won the Liberty Bell Award from the Shreveport Bar Association, the Philanthropist of the Year Award from the Association of Fund Raising Professionals, the Jacques Napier Steinau Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award given by All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. He served on the board of the D. L. Dykes, Jr., Foundation, created in memory of the pastor of the First United Methodist Church, who was Beaird's friend.

While Carolyn was a devoted Presbyterian, the obituary explains that Beaird was a "nontheist," meaning that the concept of God was not among the ideas on which he based his beliefs.

Beaird's survivors included three children: Susan Lynn Beaird (born 1943) of Shreveport; Marjorie Beaird Seawell (born 1947) of Denver, and John Benjamin Beaird (born 1950) and wife, Elizabeth "Candy" Jones Beaird (born 1957), of Shreveport. He had twenty grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.

The Beairds are interred in Shreveport's Forest Park Cemetery off St. Vincent Avenue.

See also

References

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