Dr. William Oswald Beazley, Jr.
University Administrator and Minister
William Oswald Beazley, Jr., was a Baptist minister, a colorful and innovative university administrator and a prolific author. His style, flair and sense of humor made him a memorable character throughout his life and career. He packed a lot into 90 years, and he made an indelible imprint on the history of Hardin-Simmons University.
Beazley was born on April 1, 1916, in Lexington, Virginia, where his father was pastor of First Baptist Church. After his father died during an influenza epidemic, his mother took her only child back to the family farm in Singers Glen, near Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he was raised along with a cousin who was close to his own age. He was an excellent multi-sport athlete in high school and a letterman in college. In addition to all his extra-curricular activities, he took care of the family farm as a teenager. Graduating from the Pineville-Edom High School in 1932, he then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bridgewater College in 1936.
After college, Beazley coached a variety of sports, was a choral director at the high school level and also served as religious director for the Staunton Baptist Church. His next position was assistant pastor of the Orcutt Baptist Church in Newport News, Virginia. He married Madge Lee from his hometown of Singers Glen in June of 1940.
In 1944, the couple left Virginia so Beazley could enter Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he earned his Master of Religious Education degree in 1946, a Doctor of Religious Education in 1949 and, years later, the Doctor of Education degree. In 1948, HSU President Dr. Rupert Richardson hired Beazley to teach at Hardin-Simmons, so he and Madge moved their growing family, which now included two daughters Pam and Martha, to Abilene.
In 1954, after working at HSU for six years, Beazley was recruited to serve in a denominational post with the Virginia Baptists. And so he moved his family back to the East Coast. They remained in Virginia until 1960, when subsequent HSU President, Dr. Evan Reiff, invited Beazley to join his administration as Assistant to the President, with faculty responsibilities in religious education along with public relations duties. Beazley and his family experienced a great deal of change during that time and also welcomed a new member with the birth of son Bill in 1961.
Back at Hardin-Simmons, Beazley immersed himself in Abilene and its culture, assuming the duties of organizing and managing the Annual West Texas Fair and Rodeo Parade. He was also known throughout West Texas as a formidable high school basketball referee.
Beazley remained at HSU until his death. During his long association with the school, Beazley served under six of its presidents in a variety of positions. He wore many hats in addition to his trademark Stetson. He served as executive vice president, assistant to the president; director of public relations; director of institutional services; a faculty member in religious education, speech and Bible; head of the department of religious education; interim dean of the faculties; director of admissions; coordinator of university relations, administrative associate to the president; director of the annual intercollegiate rodeo; and athletic director. Perhaps, the two most public of his HSU roles were as director of the Six White Horses program and as director of the University Artist Series.
In leading the Six White Horses, he integrated intricate riding routines into their appearances, transforming them into a show team. In 1995, the team was chosen “Outstanding Riding Group” at the Cheyenne Frontier Days, considered the “Grand Daddy” of all rodeos. The team performed at four presidential inaugurations during his tenure and became a celebrity magnet, attracting big names like Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Lyndon B. Johnson, Billy Graham, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope. In 1994, the new Six White Horses complex was named the Bill “Doc” Beazley White Horse Center, in his honor.
The University Artist Series was a huge success for HSU, as Beazley brought to campus and Abilene such notable personalities as Van Cliburn, Helen Hayes, the Royal Philharmonic of London, Jerome Hines, Isaac Stern, Robert Merrill, Mantovani, Fred Waring, Ferrante and Teicher, Roger Williams, Mahalia Jackson, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and many others.
Beazley retired from full-time duties in 1985 but would continue part-time with the Six White Horses for another 15 years. Madge, his dear wife of 60+ years died in 2001. Doc passed away on June 13, 2006. He will be long remembered as one of the most versatile administrators ever to have served on the Forty Acres.
For his distinguished service to Hardin-Simmons University and for his unique and effective contributions to Christian higher education, it is a high honor for HSU to induct Dr. William Oswald Beazley, Jr., into the Hardin-Simmons University Hall of Leaders.