Thursday, February 6, 2014

Billy E. Beard, Rest in Peace

Over the past two days the Bryan-College Station Eagle has carried the obituary of former Brazos County Commissioner Billy E. Beard, who passed away last month.  The obituary, which also appears on the Hillier Funeral Home website, reads as follows:

Billy E. Beard, 96, of Deming, NM, and formerly of Bryan, went to be with his Lord on Saturday, January 18, 2014.  A time for family to receive friends will be from 9:30 am to 10:30 am with a funeral service beginning at 10:30 am on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at Bethel Lutheran Church, 4421 Boonville Rd., Bryan, TX, with Pastor Randall Bard officiating.  Interment will follow at Rest-Ever Cemetery.

Billy was born on December 28, 1917; to Lena May (Walker) and Joseph Aaron Beard in Liberty, Texas.  He graduated from Liberty High School.  He served in the Army Air Corps from 1941-1945.  In 1942 he married Edna Catherine Williams.  Billy attended Hinds Junior College, and was admitted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M in 1947.  He served as an appraiser for the Texas Veteran’s Land Board, ran for Texas Agricultural Commissioner in 1952.  Billy farmed and ranched in Brazos County in the late 50’s, drilled for oil in Guatemala until 1962, owned Beard Pump Service from 1962-82, and served as Brazos County Commissioner from 1980-88, after which he retired to Deming, NM where he raised horses, pigs, quail, rabbits, emus, gardened and had a small pistachio orchard.

Billy was an active member of First United Methodist Church, Bryan. He was also involved with the Historical Society-Boonville Cemetery, Keep Brazos Beautiful, Humane Society, Shriners, Kiwanis, American Legion, VFW, Lions Club, and loved to hunt and fish.

He is preceded in death by his wife Edna, and son Billy E. Beard, Jr.

Billy leaves behind his loving wife of nine years, Maria J. Beard; a son, Robert and daughter-in-law Fran; two stepdaughters, Erica and Marisol, two stepsons, Angel and Chano; and eight grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Hospice Brazos Valley.

Please share your memories and tributes to Billy at

While Billy was not a member of the Brazos Heritage Society, he certainly was a supporter of its mission.  In June of 1982 Billy, who also served on the Brazos County Historical Commission, took on the task of saving the Boonville Cemetery, which had become a “countywide disgrace” due to neglect.

An editorial appearing in the Eagle on June 23, 1982, described this historic cemetery in these words:

Grave stones and markers have been upended – some broken – by vandals; weeds and tall grass have overrun the facility; the lack of management over the years makes it impossible for anyone to know just how many people are buried in the 10-acre facility, since many have been buried without any type of marker designating their grave.

Because of his interest in preserving this historic cemetery, Billy recruited the support of the two District Judges – Tom McDonald and Bradley Smith – and the Brazos County Adult Probation Department to require probationers ordered to perform community service as part of their sentence to work in the cemetery.  In addition, he got the county commissioners to agree to fence the cemetery.

A subsequent editorial appearing in the Eagle on September 10, 1982, commends Commissioner Beard and notes certain accomplishments in the preservation of this piece of Brazos County history:

Slowly but surely things are looking up for the future maintenance and care of Boonville Cemetery.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Beard, the county’s two district judges and the Adult Probation Department have developed a plan for cleaning up the historic 140-year-old cemetery and maintaining it on an ongoing basis – all at little or no cost to county taxpayers.

Beard deserves much of the credit for instigating the project and getting the plan beyond the discussion stage.  Like many people familiar with the cemetery, he had been concerned for some time about the high weeds, broken tombstones and generally dilapidated condition of one of the county’s oldest landmarks.  Since the cemetery falls within his county precinct – and since no one else had stepped forward to maintain it – Beard several months ago decided to see what he could do to bring the facility up to par.

After Beard proposed the idea last June, county commissioners agreed to fence the cemetery as a first step toward cleaning it up.  While the first set of bids received for that project were rejected because commissioners felt them too high, a second set of bids are to be opened in about two weeks and work is expected to get underway shortly thereafter.  In preparation for the fencing, Beard and his Precinct 3 crew have cleared a fence line around the cemetery.

But perhaps the most promising development has been the agreement between Beard, the two district judges and the Adult Probation Department which will allow persons convicted of a crime and granted probation to complete their community service requirement by working at the cemetery.  While several details remain to be ironed out – such as determining the need for liability insurance, assigning a supervisor to monitor the work, and developing a specific work schedule – the plan appears to be on track.  An added benefit of the plan is that the local courts can now be certain that there will be enough sanctioned community service work available to justify including that stipulation when sentence is passed in criminal cases.

Beard also hopes to involve the county’s historical society in the project, and plans to seek assistance from landscaping experts at Texas A&M University in developing a site plan for the cemetery.

The public should begin seeing the fruits of all this labor within weeks, and the community as a whole will be the better for it.  Beard, the judges, commissioners court, Dan Beto and others who have been involved in developing the plan are to be commended for their efforts.  The approach taken in addressing this problem is a fine example of what can be accomplished with cooperation, creative thinking, and a little elbow grease.

Because of Billy’s leadership, his interest in the Boonville Cemetery, and his ability to generate support for a worthy cause, we are now able to take pride in this historic landmark.  We all owe Billy a debt of gratitude.  Billy was a dedicated public servant who has left a lasting legacy in Brazos County.

Our deepest sympathies are extended to Maria, Bob, and Fran, and to other members of the Beard family.

                                                                                              Dan Beto, President

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