Richmond County lost one of its finest public servants Monday morning with the passing of Linda Beazley, 71, friends and former co-workers say.
“She gave her whole life to the county,” said Patrick Rice who served as the first chairman of the Richmond County Board of Election when Beazley became its first executive director in 1973.
Beazley was the driving force to bring the county’s election process into the modern age and it wasn’t an easy task in Richmond County where partisan politics have been contentious many times in past three decades, Rice said.
People were distrustful of new voting methods, but Beazley knew the law and how to answer people’s questions to calm fears. There was a lot of city-versus-county bickering in the days leading up to consolidation, and Beazley was the one person everyone trusted, he said.
“She was always fair and unfailingly polite. She was the kind of public servant you wish they all could be.
“You just wish you could have hugged her neck one more time,” Rice said.
Lynn Bailey followed in Beazley’s footsteps in running the county’s Board of Elections. They remained best of friends through the years.
“Linda was the best public servant I have even known. She had a way of treating people with dignity and respect that is to be admired. Linda was extraordinarily dedicated to her family and friends. She truly set an example for the rest of us and will be sorely missed,” Bailey said in an e-mail.
Beazley was the executive director of the Board of Elections until 1993 when she was became county administrator. Beazley had experience running the county when she served as interim administrator in 1985, 1988 and 1992.
When the city consolidated in 1996, Beazley and fellow co-administrator Charles Dillard were pushed aside when the city commission decided to hired a professional administrator.
Beazley didn’t stay in retirement long. Lewis Massey, then Georgia’s secretary of state, asked Beazley to become the director of the state Board of Elections in February 1997. Beazley retired again in December 2004.
“We all loved her,” said Neal Dickert, who served as chairman of the Board of Elections through the 1980s. “She lived a good life and leaves a lot of friends.”
Beazley never met a stranger, Dickert said. She had the ability to cut across all barriers and befriend everyone. “She was also a person to find the best in people. She was an inspiration to everyone who knew her.”
For all the tragedy she endured, Beazley remained an optimist, Dickert said.
Beazley suffered a great tragedy when a convicted rapist, James Lee Spencer, shot her father, Lett Williams, 74, to death and wounded her husband, Deputy L.O. Beazley on Oct. 31, 1974. Deputy Beazley was transporting Spencer to Reidsville to begin a 110-year prison sentence that day and his father-in-law came along for the ride. Spencer shot the two men in an escape attempt in Burke County. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to death by a Burke County jury. In 1996, another trial was held for Spencer to determine whether he was mentally retarded. He is now serving a life sentence in prison.
Regardless of what she was doing, Beazley could always be counted on to set everything aside to make time for someone. “Everyone thought the world of her,” said former Richmond County Sheriff Charlie Webster who knew Beazley from the summer of 1957 when she started working for the sheriff’s office.
“She did an outstanding job everywhere she went,” Webster said. He always thought she would run for public office — and win, he said.
“You couldn’t find a better person,” Webster said.
Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church of Augusta. Burial will follow in Hillcrest Memorial Park.
Memorial contributions can be made to First Baptist Church of Augusta, 3500 Walton Way, Augusta, GA 30909, or to the charity of one’s choice.
The family will receive friends Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Rd.