FLGenWeb Digital Library and Archives  


BEARD, John Shepard

Transcribed from:  The History of Florida:  Past & Present, The Lewis Publishing Co., Vol. 
III, page 52, 1923.

BEARD, JOHN SHEPARD a native of Florida, is a prominent figure in the third generation of
a family that has given able men to the affairs of Florida since early territorial days.
Maj. JOHN BEARD, his grandfather, was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, June 14, 1797,
was a graduate of Yale University in 1817, and was distinguished in law and politics in
his native state until he removed to Florida in 1838. He was appointed clerk of the United
States District Court of East Florida in 1840, and in 1842 became United States marshal for
the same district, which office he held until Florida was admitted as a state of the Union
in 1845, when, under the state government, he was elected register of public lands and, ex
officio, held the office of superintendent of schools. In 1850 he resigned to accept the
unanimous nomination of the democratic party as its candidate for Congress, but was defeated
by a small majority in the election, due to his vigorous opposition to the famous compromise
of 1850, particularly the "Wilmot Proviso". He was then elected comptroller of the state.
He represented Leon County in the secession convention of 1861, and throughout the war was
one of the most devoted upholders of the southern cause. Too old at that time to be actively
engaged in the army, he was on the military staff of Governor Milton. He was appointed
comptroller in 1866 by Governor Walker, and in that capacity refused to audit the claims for
increased pay of the members of the Legislature in 1866. This salary grab measure had been
passed over Governor Walker's veto, and Major BEARD based his refusal to audit their claims
upon the constitutional provision that no increase of compensation should take effect during
the term for which members of the Legislature were elected. He was ousted from office in
common with all southern office holders by congressional reconstruction. He died in Tallahassee
in 1876.

Col. WILLIAM KELLY BEARD, father of JOHN S. BEARD, was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, on
the 12th day of September, 1830, and came to Florida with his parents when he was eight years
old. He was one of the first to volunteer in the cause of the Confederacy in 1861. He was
elected lieutenant-colonel of the First Florida Regiment, at the age of thirty, and subsequently
was appointed adjutant and inspector-general of the Army of Tennessee on the staff of Gen.
BRAXTON BRAGG. He was badly wounded at the battle of Shiloh, but refused a furlough, and was
repeatedly cited in the reports of General Bragg for distinguished gallantry and efficiency
on the battlefield. He was in every great battle of the Army of Tennessee, including Shiloh,
Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge. He was mustered out of service
after the surrender of General Lee and Johnson, returned to his home in Tallahassee and lived
there until his death in 1882, at the age of fifty-two. Only a short time before his death
he had effected a settlement between Florida and the United States of claims made by the state
against the Federal Government for moneys expended by the state in the suppression of Indian
hostilities. This settlement resulted in the payment of considerably over one million dollars
to the State of Florida, but for this valuable service neither Colonel BEARD nor his estate
ever received one cent. Col. WILLIAM KELLY BEARD married in 1858 LETTIA GAMBLE SHEPARD, a
native of Tallahassee, Florida. She was the daughter of KATHERINE BRECKENRIDGE GAMBLE, who
was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1810, and moved to Florida with her father, Col. ROBERT
GAMBLE, a distinguished soldier of the War of 1812. Colonel GAMBLE was born in Virginia in
1782, and moved to Florida in 1824 with his wife, LETTIA BRECKENRIDGE, also of Virginia.
Mrs. BEARD's father was JOHN SWANN SHEPARD, a native of New Berne, North Carolina, who removed
to Florida about 1825.

JOHN SHEPARD BEARD was born at Tallahassee June 14, 1859, and was too young to have any distinct
recollections of the war period. He attended school at Tallahassee and then entered the
University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. He read law in the office of the late Judge R.
B. HILTON of Tallahassee, was admitted to the bar just after attaining his majority in 1880,
and in the same year began the practice of law in Tallahassee. In 1891 he moved to Pensacola,
where he has had his home and his law offices for over thirty years. Mr. BEARD was an ardent
advocate of the restoration of silver in 1896. He was chosen in 1895 by the West Florida Silver
League as a delegate to attend the conference of eminent national leaders at Washington, and
was a member of a committee which formulated the plan of organization and enunciation of principles
that became the dominant part of the democratic platform of 1896. Mr. BEARD delivered a speech
of welcome to WILLIAM J. BRYAN at Pensacola in 1898; and in 1900 was a candidate for and elected
presidential elector, at large, and in the campaign of 1901, at the invitation and under the
auspices of the National Democratic Committee, made many speeches through Ohio, West Virginia
and Illinois. He and Mr. Bryan were the only speakers at the opening of the campaign at Columbus,
Ohio, before an audience of over thirty thousand people. Mr. BEARD was a delegate at large to
the National Convention at St. Louis in 1904, and during the following campaign and under the
auspices of the National Democratic Committee, made a speaking tour through the states of Ohio,
Indiana, New York and Delaware. Mr. BEARD was elected state senator of Escambia County in 1906,
and in 1908 was a candidate for the United States Senate, being defeated by the present Senator,
D. U. FLETCHER. His most notable effort in the State Senate was his attempt to amend the
constitution of Florida so as to limit the franchise to the white males of and over the age of
twenty-one years, adopting the straightforward method of disfranchising the negro, because of
being a negro, and not through a roundabout and arbitrary device. His object was to test the
validity of the so called Fifteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. His resolution
proposing this amendment to the state's constitution passed the Senate by more than the necessary
three-fifths majority, but was defeated in the House. Again in 1909 Mr. BEARD introduced the
same resolution in the Senate, when it met with the same fate, passing the Senate by more than
the necessary three-fifths majority but again defeated in the House. Mr. BEARD made a speech
in 1901 at the re-union of the Florida Brigade of Confederate Veterans, and so satisfied were
the Confederate Veterans with his exposition of the rights of the South that they had printed
five thousand pamphlets of the speech; the first and only time that such a thing has been done
in the history of the Confederate Veterans of Florida.

In 1891 Mr. BEARD married Miss GENEVIEVE SULLIVANT, daughter of M. L., and FANNY (WILLES)
SULLIVANT. Mrs. BEARD's grandfather, LUCAS SULLIVANT, was the founder of Columbus, Ohio. Her
father, M. L. SULLIVANT, was reputed to be the largest land owner in the country, cultivating
over 40,000 acres. This immense plantation was in Illinois. Mr. and Mrs. BEARD are the parents
of five children. WILLIAM KELLEY, the eldest, graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis,
Maryland, in 1914. He was commissioned a Lieutenant in the navy in 1917, at the age of twenty-five,
and during the entire late war was in command of a destroyer. The second son, JOHN SHEPARD, Jr.,
died in infancy. Their only daughter, FANNY SULLIVANT, is the wife of NATHAN B. CHASE, a lieutenant-
commander in the navy, and they have a daughter, SUZANNE SULLIVANT, and a son, NATHAN B., Junior.
Mr. BEARD's other children are twins, JEFFERSON DAVIS BEARD and FRANCIS WILES BEARD, both of whom
are graduates of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. FRANCIS WILES, of the
class of 1920, is a lieutenant in the navy, and JEFFERSON DAVIS, of the class of 1921, is an
ensign in the navy. It is a most unusual and unique distinction that all of Mr. And Mrs. BEARD's
children are connected with the United States Navy, three sons being officers in the navy and
graduates of the Naval Academy, and their only daughter married to a lieutenant-commander, also
a graduate of the Naval Academy, of the class of 1912. The BEARDs have always been uncompromising
democrats. Major JOHN BEARD was a follower of JOHN C. CALHOUN, and an ardent advocate of the
doctrine of Nullification in the early thirties. He advised secession in 1850, saying that it
was inevitable, and that as the North was increasing in wealth and population more rapidly
than the South, the longer it was postponed the more doubtful the result, and if defeated the
South would have to submit to free negro equality, Mr. BEARD has one brother, WILLIAM K. BEARD,
now residing in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and two sisters, Mrs. M. C. ROACH, of New York, and
Mrs. J. C. EARNSHAW, of Germantown, Pennsylvania. They were all born in Tallahassee, Florida,
where they lived until grown to manhood and womanhood. JOHN S. BEARD is the eldest.

Presented by  Nancy Rayburn
Return to Archives        Leon Archives
This page created August 22, 2010
 © 2010 Fran Smith