Luther King and with Floyd McKissick. He was cap- tain of the football team. He began studying law at N.C College, and when the lawsuit filed on behalf of McKissick and others cracked the ice at Chapel Hill, he was ready. "I just felt like we ought to open up all the windows and doors and air it all out. If I hadn't, some other child would have had to. Something had to be done - it wasn't pleasant. We won a war for something that had been denied to other black boys." He roomed with Kenneth Lee, who would earn his degree two months after Beech.
The story of Beech's graduation day has been told
many times: How the class lined up two-by-two
except for Beech."I was the only one who walked in
alone. I heard that my partner said, 'I'd rather not
graduate than walk in with a nigger.' I didn't hear
him say that, somebody told me."The white editor
of the Law Review jumped out ofplace and fell in
PHOTO BY DAN SEARS ' 74
At the podium,"Gov. Kerr Scott [' 50 LLDH]
said, 'Never in my life have I seen so many intelligent
people sitting in the dark. Things are changing. Get
ready.' He said it three times. I'm sure he was talking
about the black boy in the class."
Beech practiced law in his hometown of Kinston
for more than 35 years. In the courtroom he did
well for himself and for people who needed help.
He was the first black chair of the Kinston Board of
Education and the first black trustee of East Carolina
University. He gave some of the land for Lenoir
Community College, and he donated his law office
to a nonprofit group that intends to develop a com-
puter education center - named for Beech and his
wife, Eloise - for underprivileged children and
adults. He has too many keys to the city to mention.
He is the soul and inspiration behind the Black
Alunmi Reunion at Carolina, where he also estab-
lished a scholarship endowment. This spring, he will
receive the GAA's Distinguished Service Medal.
"I recall Chancellor House saying, 'The biggest
mistake I ever made was fighting integration.' He
was a fine man, but he was caught up in a time -
he couldn't resist it."
There is a story that won't stop haunting him.
While he was in school at N.C College, he and
Eloise were traveling in Massachusetts. He knew
well that the law there granted him access to all
public facilities. But when they stopped to eat, he
was afraid to go in, even for a takeout order. "I made
an A in constitutional law" - one of what he
believes were the few A's given by a Carolina profes-
sor who visited N.C College."I knew my rights
better than anybody. We were hungry, and I was too
This is where Harvey Beech, 78, a veteran civil
rights defender, breaks down and weeps.
"It's not what happens to me, a grown man. If it
has that effect on me, what effect does it have on a
woman living in a back alley with kids to raise? I'd
been taught all my life I was less than a human
being. It's not me. It's those who can't do for them-
This man - who recently told a newspaper
writer he'd been called a nigger so many times in
Chapel Hill that he thought his name had changed
- wants a visitor to look out in his back yard at his
Carolina blue fountain. It has lights so he can see it
at night. And that ain't the half of it.
On busy Queen Street in Kinston, on a corner
beside the building that was his law office, is a life-
size replica, all the details, copper top and every-
thing, of the Old Well. 1111.
(It~ not what
me, a grown
man. if it has
that wect on
me, what wect
does it have
on a woman
living in a
with kids to
raise? I'd been
taught all my
life I was less
than a human
being. It~ not
me. It~ those
who can't do
CARO L INA ALUMN I REVIEW