Robin Beard

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Robin Leo Beard, Jr.
Robin Beard.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 6th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1983
Preceded by William R. Anderson
Succeeded by Al Gore
Personal details
Born (1939-08-21)August 21, 1939
Knoxville, Tennessee
Died June 16, 2007(2007-06-16) (aged 67)
Charleston, South Carolina
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Catherine Beard
Alma mater Vanderbilt University

Robin Leo Beard, Jr. (August 21, 1939 – June 16, 2007) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Tennessee's 6th congressional district, who served from 1973 to 1983.

Early life[edit]

A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Beard graduated from the prestigious Montgomery Bell Academy and Vanderbilt University, both in Nashville. He was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He was a former colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He later moved to Somerville, a suburb of Memphis.

Political career[edit]

In 1970, Beard was appointed Tennessee personnel commissioner by newly elected Republican Governor Winfield Dunn. In 1972, he entered the GOP primary for the newly reconfigured 6th Congressional District. It was widely speculated that the district had been drawn in such a way as to put incumbent Democrat William Anderson of Waverly in a precarious position as punishment for his presumed liberalism and his musings about running for vice president in 1972. Also, many Democrats still remembered Anderson's 1962 gubernatorial bid as an independent against their nominee, Frank G. Clement. The Democrats in the state legislature shifted several Republican-trending portions near Memphis into the Sixth and removed several solidly Democratic areas.

In November, Beard defeated Anderson by twelve percentage points. Tennessee Democrats had not anticipated the depth of the massive Republican landslide fueled largely by the presidential candidacy of George McGovern, who carried only five of Tennessee's ninety-five counties; the Republicans were able to win a majority in the state's congressional delegation for the first time since Reconstruction. However, Beard's victory was not considered an upset; the redrawn 6th was considered the only Democratic-held district in Tennessee in which a Republican had a realistic chance of winning.

Beard proved to be popular in much of his district, even though almost none of its residents had previously been represented by a Republican. Indeed, Democrats continued to hold most of the area's seats in the state legislature well into the 1980s. In part due to taking conservative positions on almost all issues, and in part from his constituent services, Beard was reelected to four subsequent terms. His first reelection coincided with the 1974 nationwide Watergate debacle which ended the careers of many Republicans. Beard was frequently reelected by margins of over 30 percentage points, rivaling the totals usually scored by Republicans in East Tennessee. His only serious threat probably came in 1976, when he was opposed for reelection by former Senator Ross Bass, who had represented the district from 1955 to 1964. However, Bass found himself running in a large amount of territory that he had never represented in Congress, and was defeated by over 34 points. Beard's blowout win over Bass was one of the few bright spots for Tennessee Republicans in a year in which state politics were largely otherwise dominated by Democrats, who regained more of the ground that they had lost four years earlier.

Beard did not run for a sixth term in the 1982 elections, opting instead to run for the Republican nomination to oppose freshman Democratic Senator Jim Sasser. While Beard won the primary, he was a heavy underdog against Sasser from the beginning (even though Ronald Reagan had carried Tennessee two years before), and his television ads didn't help the cause. In one of the advertisements, Sasser was likened to a then-popular toy mouse which was wound up and started performing back flips, emphasizing Sasser's "flip flop" record according to Beard; in another, a fatigue-wearing Fidel Castro look-alike lit his cigar with what appeared to be American money, saying, "Gracias, Señor Sasser!" In the end, Beard lost in a massive 20-point landslide. This was a considerable embarrassment to the Tennessee GOP, especially considering that Republican Governor Lamar Alexander was handily reelected. The Republicans would not win another statewide race until 1994, when they captured the governorship and both Senate seats.

Subsequent to his Senate defeat, Beard was appointed as a NATO deputy secretary-general and spent several years (1984–1987) in Belgium, an experience that he enjoyed so much that he repeated it again later (1992–1995). He was subsequently quoted as saying that losing the Senate race was the best thing that had ever happened to him or his family, which he again found time for once removed from the constant travel and fundraising associated with service in Congress. He later ran a Washington, D.C.-based import-export business and was at one time a resident of Alexandria, Virginia.

Later life and death[edit]

Beard retired to Charleston County, South Carolina, where he later ran for a seat on the county school board in 2006 (Arthur Ravenel, Jr., also a former U.S. Representative, ran successfully in the race.) Shortly after filing for the race, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Late in his campaign, he underwent surgery and chemotherapy treatments but stayed in the race, which he subsequently lost.

Beard died from the brain tumor after a little more than a week in hospice care.

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William R. Anderson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 6th congressional district

1973–1983
Succeeded by
Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Brock
Republican nominee for United States Senator from Tennessee
(Class 1)

1982
Succeeded by
Bill Andersen