Celebration of the Life of Centenary Trustee Charles T. Beaird Set for 2 p.m. Saturday in Brown Chapel at Centenary College
The following is the official notice concerning the late Dr. Charles T. Beaird:
SHREVEPORT, LA — An extraordinary life has ended.
Dr. Charles T. Beaird, 83 — family man, philanthropist, industrialist, investor, newspaper publisher, philosopher, college professor, world traveler, civic leader, Republican, liberal, champion of equal rights for all, and student of just about everything — died in the early hours of Tuesday, April 18, 2006, at Christus Schumpert Highland Hospital. The immediate cause of his death was an overwhelming infection, which set in after many months of declining health.
He died less than three months after his beloved wife, Carolyn Williams Beaird, who died on Jan. 26, 2006, only days before their 63rd anniversary.
A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, 2006, in Brown Chapel at Centenary College, his alma mater which he also served as a trustee and teacher. There will be a reception immediately following in Centenary's Hamilton Hall.
He was born in Shreveport on July 17, 1922, to James Benjamin Beaird and Mattie Connell Fort Beaird. His mother's death six weeks later shaped many aspects of his life, as did his father's death when Charles was only 16. Those experiences, and his own fierce intellectual independence, created a persona that would have far-ranging impact on his community, its issues and its people.
He completed C.E. Byrd High School in three years and accomplished a youthful dream by attending Culver Military Academy and becoming a member of its Black Horse Troop. From there, he enrolled at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and joined Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, but he tired of the cold weather and transferred to the University of Texas at Austin.
With the outbreak of World War II, he returned to Shreveport and enrolled at Centenary, where he met Carolyn, while waiting to enlist in the Naval Air Training Program. In 1943 he was commissioned into the U.S. Marine Air Corps in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Feb. 5, married Carolyn in Shreveport on Feb. 6, and reported for duty in Fort Worth, Texas, on Feb. 8. He served first as a pilot instructor, then led a fighting squadron assigned to the recapture and holding of the Philippines flying, among other planes, B-25s and the OS 2U torpedo bomber. By war's end he had attained the rank of Captain and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Decorated Air Medal.
In 1946 he returned to Shreveport, where he became vice president of the J.B. Beaird Co., which his father had begun as a welding service in 1918. During the war it had grown to be a major manufacturer of metal products, with his older brother, Pat, as president. Charles started work there as a youth sweeping floors, so he knew the business literally from the ground up — a process he would follow in every other enterprise of his life, learning the basics until he became an expert.
Following the sale of that company, he bought a small chainsaw company founded by Claude Poulan and his brothers, renamed it Beaird-Poulan, and built it into the fourth largest maker of chainsaws in the world. The company was bought by Emerson Electric in 1973, and Charles became chairman of the Beaird-Poulan Division of Emerson.
Throughout this time, Charles got interested in politics, mostly because of the fledgling Republican Party organization being formed by many of his childhood friends. He became chairman of the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee in 1952, then was elected to the Caddo Parish Police Jury in 1956, becoming one of the first Republicans elected to any public office in Louisiana since Reconstruction. This attracted national attention, and earned for him the honor of giving a seconding speech for President Dwight D. Eisenhower's nomination for a second term at the 1956 Republican National Convention. Though he entered politics as a conservative, the influence of his wife, his three children and his life experiences gradually changed him into a liberal — and proud of it.
For all his success as a still-young man, one thing bothered him: his interrupted education. Drawn by a growing fascination with philosophy, he re-enrolled at Centenary College, where he was already a trustee, and received the B.A. in 1966. Wanting more, he became a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and was accepted into the graduate program at Columbia University in New York, where he achieved what he often said was "the most difficult thing I've ever done," earning the Ph.D. in philosophy in 1972 at the age of 50.
Armed with what he called his "academic union card," he returned to Centenary as assistant professor of philosophy, teaching there for seven years.
He also served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, TX; a director of Winrock Enterprises; a member of the Young Presidents Organization; a partner in Westport Real Estate; a founder of the Committee of 100; chairman of the Citizens Committee on Desegregation for the Caddo Parish Schools; chairman of the United Fund Campaign; vice president of the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce; chairman and board member of the Community Foundation of Shreveport-Bossier; on the Board of Supervisors for Southern University; co-chair of Shreveport's Biracial Commission; and Trustee and Treasurer of the American Rose Foundation - for which he was an early and constant advocate.
His affection for the rose and its worth as a symbol figured prominently in his next enterprise, when he bought the Shreveport Journal in 1976 and changed it overnight from an arch-conservative newspaper into an aggressively liberal one. Its symbol, on page one, was the rose - which also adorned the brief, complimentary verbal "roses" the Journal awarded frequently on its editorial page, just as a real rose was always pinned to Dr. Beaird's coat lapel.
Under his leadership, the Journal crusaded for changes in many ways, and could claim successes in many of them - not the least being the fluoridation of Shreveport's water supply and the opening of Cross Lake to public swimming, both of which had been "conservative bugaboos," as he called them. He also championed labor unions, something no local newspaper had done.
His editorial page was important to him. When the Shreveport Journal ceased daily publication in 1991, he won an agreement with Gannett Co., owner of The (Shreveport) Times, in which he continued to own a separate page of editorial opinion in The Times, published six days a week as the Journalpage. It was an arrangement unique in the world of journalism, in which the "host" paper had absolutely no control over the content of the separately owned page. His Journalpage continued to win awards, including being named a Nominated Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for 1994 — for a series on the legalization or decriminalization of drugs, one of many unorthodox topics he chose for his writers to explore.
By contract, the Journalpage continued until December 31, 1999, or his death, whichever came first. Fortunately, it was the former, but the date was significant to him for many reasons. He considered himself a child of the 20th Century, and he had planned years before to end it with a bash — which he did, at a spectacular Millenium's Eve party. At that party, he served a selection of the world's finest wines, collected after he became a student of winemaking.
There was nothing about which he didn't want to know more - except exercise, which he hated unless it involved a golf club. He was a member of Shreveport Country Club, the Shreveport Club, Cambridge Club and Chevaliers du Tastevin, the international wine and food society.
His last career was managing investments and real estate, including downtown's Beaird Tower, which has a symbolic rose at its top.
Another great interest, which he and Carolyn shared, was philanthropy, but the extent of their personal giving may never be fully known because much of it was done anonymously. Of those that are known: They endowed one chair and two professorships at Centenary College and one at Union Theological Seminary in New York; were one of The Strand Partners whose financial support finished the restoration of the historic theater; were a partner in both the McAdoo Hotel, serving the homeless, and the Buckhalter Hotel, for recovering alcoholics; endowed the Educational Building at Galilee Baptist Church; and were major contributors and leaders in the American Rose Center Endowment Trust. For many years, he and his family led efforts to improve housing and living conditions in Shreveport's most impoverished neighborhood, Ledbetter Heights.
To assure that their giving would continue beyond their lives, he formed the nonprofit Charles T. Beaird Foundation in 1960 with a substantial donation. The Foundation, guided by a Board of Directors drawn from his family, has donated millions to local nonprofit organizations, and will continue to do so under the capable leadership of his longtime friend and colleague, Jim Montgomery.
He was given numerous honors throughout his life, including the Liberty Bell Award of 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 also considered it a high honor to serve on the board of the D.L. Dykes Jr. Foundation, created in memory of the legendary Methodist minister who was his friend.
He had many friends across a wide spectrum of economic, social and religious backgrounds, all of whom he respected and honored. While Carolyn was a devoted Presbyterian, he was a "nontheist," meaning in simplistic terms that the concept of God was not among the ideas on which he based his beliefs — but that if you did, it was fine with him.
His was a mind that was forever challenging, even - or especially - to those he loved deeply, who survive him: They are his children: Susan Lynn Beaird of Shreveport; Marjorie Beaird Seawell of Denver, Colo.; and John B. and Elizabeth "Candy" Beaird of Shreveport. His 20 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren: Leslie McCormick Darr, her husband Bryan and their sons Jackson and Austin, of Germantown, Tenn.; George Millsaps McCormick III, his wife Jennifer and their sons George and Colin, of Houston, Texas; James Benjamin McCormick, his wife Christie and their children Ian and Mason, of Shreveport; Frances Scott Seawell, her husband Phillip Boyle and their children Erin, Rachel and Lauren, of Carrboro, N.C.; Malcolm Burns Seawell, his wife Nicole and their sons William, Cole and Macallan, of Cherry Hills Village, Colo.; Mary Ashley Seawell, her husband Leland Ferguson and their daughters Hallie, Anne and Evelyn, of Denver, Colo.; David Buie Seawell and his wife Katherine, of Seattle, Wash.; Duncan Beaird Seawell and his wife Susan of Denver, Colo.; and Joshua Charles Seawell of Denver, Colo.; Chad Edmund Naquin and his daughter Sydnie, of Lafayette, La.; Matthew Alan Wolf and Tyler Redmond Wolf of Shreveport.
He is also survived by his sister-in-law Mary Lou W. Scherer and her husband John, of Midland, Texas; and by numerous nieces, nephews and friends.
He was predeceased by his parents, his brothers Walton Beaird and J. Pat Beaird Sr., his sister Pearl Beaird Ford, and his adored wife Carolyn Williams Beaird.
Dr. Beaird's family wishes to thank his executive assistant of almost 30 years, Edna Robinson; the health professionals and caregivers who cared for both Carolyn and Charles, including Drs. Sanders Hearne, Bijoy Khanderia, Larry Broadwell and Loyd Whitley; and special thanks to Helen Hall, Gwen Lee, Gust Nesbitt and the late Rosemary and Bill Hill for their devoted care of the Beaird family over the generations.
Dr. Beaird's family suggests in lieu of flowers that memorials may be made to the Community Foundation of Shreveport-Bossier, 401 Edwards St., Suite 105, Shreveport, LA 71101; to Centenary College, 2911 Centenary Blvd., Shreveport, LA 71104; to the American Rose Society Endowment Fund, P. O. Box 30000, Shreveport, LA 71130-0030; or to a charity of the donor's choice.
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