Originally created 09/26/03

Commissioner gets roasted



About 350 people turned out to honor Augusta Commission member Lee Beard during a roast Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, former Atlanta Police Chief Reginald Eaves, Georgia Circuit Court of Appeals John Ruffin Jr., legislators, judges and faces from Mr. Beard's days as a teacher, counselor and principal in a half-dozen Richmond County schools attended the event at Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.

Verma Curtis, the principal of East Augusta Middle School, recounted a few of her former colleague's favorite sayings, such as, "Nothing derails a train of thought more effectively than a one-track mind" and, "Nature gave us two ears and one tongue, so we can listen twice as much as we talk."

Former Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Ronnie Few described Mr. Beard as a man who is dedicated to service and unafraid to stand up for what was right.

"It was truly refreshing to meet a man who was not afraid of what people said," Mr. Few said. "He was truly a friend and an inspiration for the city of Augusta. Augusta's a better city for the courage and tenacity of Lee Beard."

Fellow Commissioner Steve Shepard said Mr. Beard was a "formidable adversary and appreciated ally."

Former state Sen. Charles Walker credited Mr. Beard with insisting that black principals were hired by the Richmond County Board of Education in the days when there were none in the schools.

"A lot of people don't know that," Mr. Walker said. Mr. Beard is from "the old school, and his word is his bond," he said.

A person doesn't have to check back with Mr. Beard every 30 minutes to see whether his word is still good, said Mr. Walker, who said he learned he had to do that in the state Legislature.

"He talks softly but walks steady and keeps the kind of stick that keeps people moving," Mr. Walker said.

Mr. Beard, who has battled cancer this year, has been a force in Augusta politics for the past 10 years. He was a member of the Augusta City Council from 1993 until the city and Richmond County consolidated in 1996.

He was the only city council member who ran to win a seat on the Augusta Commission. He served as mayor pro tempore from 1998 through 2000. He was re-elected in 2001 to represent District 1, which includes most of downtown Augusta.

Former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre and James L. Kendrick were the chairmen of the event.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.