Friday, November 28, 2014

Pleiades Orion Beard (1871-1955)

Portrait from the Texas Bar Journal, April 1955.

   Just what is it with Texas and oddly named public officials? To date over 30 Lone Star state political and judicial figures have been profiled here on the Strangest Names In American Political History and today's "honoree" is a very recent discovery, so recent in fact that I located his name earlier this morning via a 1955 edition of the Texas Bar Journal. Pleiades Orion Beard, a Texas district court judge, has an unusual first and middle name combo that could also double for a Roman gladiator or a character on Battlestar Gallactica! While his space age sounding name may be"out-there", Beard spent over five decades as a practicing attorney and was later elected to the offices of District Attorney and District Court Judge for Texas' 71st district.
   The son of William and Catherine Beall Beard, Pleiades Orion "P.O." Beard was born in Rusk County, Texas on December 13, 1871. He is presumed to have been given his outstandingly different name in honor of the Greek mythological figures referred to as the "Pleiades", a group of seven daughters born to Atlas (he of "world on shoulders" fame) and a sea nymph called Pleione. As the myth goes, Atlas was forced to support the "celestial spheres" on his shoulders, and afterwards Orion (the great huntsman) gave chase to the Pleiades, who in turn were turned into doves (and then stars) by Zeus. Certainly some very unusual names to give a child!!
  Young Pleiades began and concluded his early education in the "common schools" of Church Hill, Texas, and in 1891 was a graduate of the Summer Hill Select School of Omen. He would teach school for a period of two years and decided upon a career in law during the early 1890s. He began study under Henderson, Texas attorney Ned Morris and in 1893 was admitted to the Texas state bar.  
  Two years after being admitted to the bar Beard was elected to his first public office, that of County Attorney for Rusk County, Texas. He served in this post until 1900, and a year prior to leaving office married to Sallie McGehee (1870-1954), to whom he was wed for over fifty years. The couple had no children. 
   From 1900-1909 P.O. Beard maintained a law practice in Rusk County and in the latter year removed to Harrison County, Texas, settling in the city of Marshall. He would form a law practice here with Thomas Whitfield Davidson (1876-1974), later to serve as a  state senator, Lieutenant Governor and Federal Judge. Their firm lasted until 1916, when Beard was elected as District Judge for Texas' 71st district. A year after taking office Beard experienced personal tragedy with the death of his father, who was killed after "being thrown from his son's automobile as it turned a sharp curb."
   P.O. Beard served two terms as district judge, retiring in 1928. Active in the Knights of Pythias in addition to practicing law, Beard achieved major distinction in that organization in 1928 when he became Grand Chancellor of the Grand Domain of Texas, serving one year in office. Nearly two decades after leaving the post of Grand Chancellor Beard was awarded a fifty-year "jewel and card" from the Marshall, Texas Pythias Lodge for his long standing connection to the order. Beard also attained high rank in the local Mason lodge, being a member of that order for over fifty years and was a "past grand master of his district."
   Beard continued to be active in public affairs well into his eighth decade, practicing law in Marshall as well as serving as the director of the Marshall Federal Savings and Loan Association. Widowed in 1954, Pleiades O. Beard died at age 83 on February 25, 1955 after having been ill for "several weeks." Both he and his wife Sallie were interred at the Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park following their deaths.
  
From the Corsicana Sun, February 26, 1955.

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