Charles T. Beaird

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Charles Thomas Beaird
Charles T. Beaird of Shreveport, LA.jpg
Member, Caddo Parish Police Jury (now parish commission)
In office
1956–1960
Personal details
Born (1922-07-17)July 17, 1922
Shreveport, Caddo Parish
Louisiana, U.S.
Died April 18, 2006(2006-04-18) (aged 83)
Resting place Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Carolyn Williams Beaird (1923-2006, married 1943-2006, her death)
Children Susan Lynn Beaird (born 1943
Marjorie Beaird Seawell (born 1947)
John Benjamin Beaird (born 1950)
Parents James Benjamin and Mattie Connell Fort Beaird
Occupation Industrialist, college professor, newspaper publisher
Military service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Rank Captain
Battles/wars Pacific Theater of World War II

Charles Thomas Beaird (July 17, 1922 – April 18, 2006) was an industrialist, newspaper publisher, philanthropist, and civic leader from Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana. A self-identified "liberal Republican", Beaird was an early champion of civil rights legislation.

Early life and education[edit]

Beaird was the son of James Benjamin Beaird and the former Mattie Connell Fort. His mother died six weeks after his birth, and his father succumbed when he was sixteen. According to his obituary, Beaird had to grow up quickly but developed a fierce intellectual independence.

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 at Ann Arbor, Michigan, joined the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, and transferred to the University of Texas at Austin. With the outbreak of World War II, Beaird returned to Shreveport and enrolled at Methodist-affiliated Centenary College. He met his future wife, Carolyn Williams (August 8, 1923 – January 27, 2006), while waiting to enlist in the Naval Air training program.

Military service[edit]

On February 5, 1943, he was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps in Corpus Christi, Texas. He and Carolyn married in Shreveport the next day, and he 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 B-25s and the OS 2U torpedo bomber. He attained the rank of captain and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Decorated Air Medal.

Career[edit]

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 his older brother, J. Pat Beaird, Sr., as president. Charles Beaird worked there as a youth sweeping floors, so he knew the business, 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. Beard built the company into the fourth largest maker of chainsaws in the world. When it was purchased by Emerson Electric in 1973, Beaird became chairman of the Beaird-Poulan Division of Emerson, known for its WeedEater products.

In 1952, Beaird joined childhood friends in an effort to create a viable GOP in Shreveport, which had been an all-Democratic city since Reconstruction. In 1952, Beaird became chairman of the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee of Caddo Parish. In 1956, he was elected to the Caddo Parish Police Jury, the equivalent of county commission in most other states. He was one of the first Republicans elected to public office in Louisiana since Reconstruction. He was elected at the local level as there was no Republican gubernatorial candidate running in the 1956 general election. Later that year, he managed the campaign of then Republican Calhoun Allen, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Overton Brooks of Louisiana's 4th congressional district. After switching to Democrat, Allen won election as Shreveport's public utilities commissioner (1962–1970) and mayor (1970–1978).

Beaird attracted national attention in 1956, when he gave a seconding speech for the renomination of President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California.

In 1959, Beaird and Tom Stagg, the GOP chairman for Louisiana's 4th congressional district became involved in an intra-party feud with the Louisiana national committeeman, George W. Reese, Jr., of New Orleans, the party's U. S. Senate nominee in 1960 against Allen J. Ellender, and LeRoy Smallenberger, the Shreveport lawyer, party functionary, and subsequent state chairman from 1960 to 1964. Stagg objected when Reese endorsed, with Smallenberger in agreement, a slate of candidates for party position on both the state and parish committees. Stagg, backed by Beaird, the then chairman of the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee, described Reese as having attempted to assemble a group of "yes-men" and had hence "earned the enmity of a large number of fair-minded Republicans".[1] Reese, however, defended his endorsements, most of whom won their primary races, on the premise that he as a statewide party leader was obligated to recommend suitable candidates to rank-and-file voters, many of whom were unfamiliar with the credentials of the various candidates.[2]

In 1960, Beaird was one of the ten elector candidates in Louisiana for the unsuccessful Nixon/Lodge ticket. Though he entered politics as a conservative, his wife and children and his own experiences gradually changed him into a liberal. However, unlike Calhoun Allen, he did not join the Democratic Party — he remained a liberal within the more conservative Louisiana GOP.

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.

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 in Columbia University where he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1972 at the age of 50. He returned as assistant professor of philosophy at Centenary College, where he taught for seven years and was inducted into the Centenary Alumni Hall of Fame.

The Shreveport Journal[edit]

A trustee for the American Rose Foundation, his affection for the rose figured prominently in his next enterprise, the now defunct Shreveport Journal which he bought in 1976 from Douglas F. Attaway.[3] He changed it from a conservative paper, which under former editor George W. Shannon endorsed conservative Democratic and Republican candidates, into a liberal one, edited by the Democrat Stanley R. Tiner, whom Beaird retained from Attaway's staff.[4] The Journal began to use the symbol, the rose, Beaird's favorite flower.

Under his leadership, The Journal crusaded for the fluoridation of Shreveport's water supply, accomplished through the efforts of the Republican Utilities Commissioner Billy Guin, who served from 1977 to 1978, the last to hold that position before the introduction of the mayor-council form of city government. Unlike other Louisiana newspaper publishers, Beaird championed organized labor, a rare phenomenon in the South.

Beaird announced the closure of The Journal on January 29, 1991, to give employees two months notice before the effective date of termination on March 30. He explained that the publication had lost circulation and advertising revenues during the preceding decade from a high of nearly 40,000 to barely 16,000. Beaird did not comment on the possibility that his liberal editorial views, new to the older readers, had been a factor in the decline in circulation. "There just comes a time when it becomes uneconomical to go on. It was a very tough, sad decision," he said.[5]

When The Journal halted publication, Beaird negotiated a unique agreement with Gannett Co., owner of the morning Shreveport Times with which the Journal had a joint operating agreement, to run "Journal Page" an editorial opinion page six days a week in The Times. "Journal Page" was a 1994 finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for a series on decriminalization of narcotics. The "Journal Page" was edited by Jim Montgomery (1945-2013), a former managing editor of The Shreveport Times.[6] The Journal Page ended its run on December 31, 1999.[7]

Philanthropy[edit]

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

Beaird's last career was in real estate, including the downtown Shreveport Beaird Tower, with one of his symbolic roses at its top.

He and Carolyn were philanthropists, but the extent of their personal giving may never be fully known because much was done anonymously. They endowed two chairs at Centenary College and one at Union Theological Seminary in New York. They helped to restore the historic Strand Theatre in downtown Shreveport and 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 leaders in the American Rose Center endowment trust. He served on the board of the D. L. Dykes, Jr., Foundation in memory of the pastor of the First United Methodist Church, who was Beaird's friend. He fought to improve housing and living conditions in Ledbetter Heights, one of Shreveport's most impoverished neighborhoods.

The nonprofit Charles T. Beaird Foundation, created in 1960, is guided by a board drawn from the Beaird family, has donated millions to local nonprofit organizations, such as The Center for Families[8] and the Beaird Foundation.[9]

Grave of Charles T. Beaird in Forest Park Cemetery

Beaird received:

  • Liberty Bell Award from the Shreveport Bar Association
  • Philanthropist of the Year Award from the Association of Fund Raising Professionals
  • Jacques Napier Steinau Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson Award given by All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.

Last years[edit]

Beaird died from an infection that resulted after months of declining health. His death came fewer than three months after that of Carolyn, who died ten days before their 63rd anniversary. He was an atheist.[10]

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). The Beairds are interred at Shreveport's Forest Park East Cemetery off St. Vincent Avenue.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "GOP Faction Fight Erupts Over Primary: 4th District Head Charges Attempt to Pack Committee", The Shreveport Times, December 2, 1959, p. 1
  2. ^ "Endorsements Defended by GOP Leader: Reese answers attack by Stagg as Faction Fight", The Shreveport Times, December 3, 1959, pp. 1, 4
  3. ^ "Shreveport Journal Collection, 1921-1990". scripts.lsus.edu. Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  4. ^ Pender, Geoff, and Wilemon, Tom, "Dedicated to the people of South Mississippi: Three named finalists for editorials", The Sun Herald, April 18, 2006, accessed May 16, 2006
  5. ^ "Shreveport Journal ends publication after 96 years",Minden Press-Herald]], March 30, 1991, p. 1
  6. ^ "James Ray "Jim" Montgomery obituary". Shreveport Times. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Shreveport Journal Collection (1921-1990)". lsus.edu. Retrieved June 13, 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Center for Families: Counseling to Improve the Lives of All". thecenterforfamilies.com. Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Carolyn W. and Charles T. Beaird Family Foundation". beairdfoundation.org. Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  10. ^ Obituary: "He had many friends across a wide spectrum of economic, social and religious backgrounds, all of whom he respected and honored. While Carolyn [his wife] was a devoted Presbyterian, he was a 'nontheist, '"