Former Richmond County Commissioner Beckham dies

 

Herb Beckham, a former Rich­­mond County commissioner and school board member known for his conservative politics and witty personality, died Sunday. He was 77.

Beckham served on the county commission from 1987 to 1992 and was its chairman in 1989, according to The Augusta Chronicle archives.

“He was a true conservative. He was representative of his district,” said Lee Neel, a former commissioner who served with Beckham. “He kept us laughing and kept us on track.”

Beckham gained the seat after an upset victory in his west Augusta district, running as the underdog against Mayor Charles A. DeVaney’s brother-in-law, Barry Norton.

Beckham also served on the Richmond County Board of Education and was instrumental in the 1983 ousting of Superintendent William Oellerich.

He negotiated a deal with three black school board members that enabled A.K. Hasan to become the first black president of the board if they agreed to force out the superintendent, who was disliked for his advocacy of school busing, according to news accounts.

“Herb was the type of person that said what he thought and did what he said,” said his older brother, Bob Beckham.

Herb Beckham vacated his county commission seat early in 1992 for a state Senate run. He lost to Don Cheeks and reduced much of his political involvement afterward.

Beckham was the youngest of eight children. He and his wife, Judy, had four children and seven grandchildren.

He graduated from Spar­tan­burg Junior College before working for Texaco in Atlanta and moving to Augusta, where he operated the Red Lion Texaco station on Walton Way.

Beckham was the vice president of Beckham Petroleum Co. from 1971 to 1994, when the company, owned by his brother Bob, was sold.

Beckham was also an avid golfer and a national table tennis champion. He learned to play while stationed in Japan with the Navy, his brother said.

Last week, the commission voted to name Fire Station No. 10 on Alexander Drive for Beckham.

Visitation with the family will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at St. Mark United Methodist Church, 2367 Washington Road, followed by a 5 p.m. funeral, said his daughter Tracy Meehan. Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors is handling arrangements.

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