Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Beard was a graduate of Nashville's prestigious Montgomery Bell Academy, Vanderbilt University, a former lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and a member of the Cabinet of Republican governor Winfield Dunn when he announced that he was entering the Republican primary for the newly-reconfigured Sixth Congressional District in 1972. It was widely speculated that the district had been drawn in such a way as to put incumbent William Anderson of Waverly in a precarious position as punishment for his presumed liberalism and due to his mentioning, at least in passing, that he might consider running for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972. Also, many Democrats still remembered Anderson's 1962 gubernatorial bid as an independent against their nominee, Frank G. Clement. The Democrats in the state legislature designed the district in such a way that if there was to be a Republican Congressional victory in the state outside of traditionally Republican East Tennessee that it could only reasonably be expected to occur in the Sixth District.
In November, 1972, the anticipated Republican victory occurred, and Beard swept into office by 12 percentage points. However, Tennessee Democrats had not anticipated the depth of the Republican landslide fueled largely by the Presidential candidacy of George McGovern, who carried only five of Tennessee's 95 counties; the Republicans carried the Eighth District (then Memphis) as well, and had a majority in the state's U.S. House of Representatives delegation for the first time since Reconstruction. Beard proved to be popular in much of his district, even though almost none of its residents had ever been represented by a Republican before, and, in part due to taking conservative positions on almost all issues, much to the liking of a majority of his constituents, and in part due to emphasis on constituent services, won reelection to four subsequent terms, his first reelection coinciding with the 1974 nationwide Watergate debacle which ended the careers of may Republicans. His only serious threat probably came in 1976 when he was opposed for reelection by former United States Senator Ross Bass, who had represented the district from 1955 to 1964. However he turned Bass back fairly easily--by over 34 points--in a year in which Tennessee politics were largely otherwise dominated by Democrats, who regained more of the ground that they had lost four years earlier.
Perhaps Beard mistook popularity and name recognition within his district for popularity and name recognition statewide; perhaps he had tired of his service in the House. In any event, Beard entered the 1982 Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate nomination to oppose Jim Sasser, and, while winning it, lost in a landslide to Sasser in the general election that November, being defeated by over 20 percentage points. Perhaps the lowest point in this campaign was Beard's television spots; in one Sasser was likened to a then-popular toy mouse which was wound up and started performing back flips, emphasizing Sasser's "flip flop" record according to Beard; in another, a fatigue-wearing Fidel Castro look-alike lit his cigar with what appeared to be American money, saying, "Gracias, Seņor Sasser!" Very few Tennesseans accepted the premise that Sasser was a Communist or Communist sympathizer; while Beard was unlikely to have won under any circumstances, it is generally regarded that these spots hurt him greatly.
Subsequent to his Senate defeat Beard was appointed as a NATO deputy secretary-general and spent several years (1984–1987) in Belgium, an experience that he enjoyed so much that he repeated it again later (1992–1995). He was subsequently quoted as saying that losing the Senate race was the best thing that had ever happened to him or his family, which he again found time for once removed from the constant travel and fundraising associated with service in Congress. He currently runs a Washington, D.C.-based import-export business and is a resident of Alexandria, Virginia.
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