Column/Couple had impact on state politics

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 27, 2006

This is an election year, and that always reminds me of two people I most admire – Gould and Mary Beech.

If you’re unfamiliar with the couple, that’s a shame, especially since Selma prides itself as a point of reference in the Civil Rights movement.

Long before the names of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were well known, Gould and Mary Beech were working behind the scenes to ensure equal rights for all.

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Gould, a graduate of the University of Alabama who served as editor for The Crimson White, was a populist, and considered a “leftist” by some.

He met his future wife, Mary Foster, in a chemistry class at the university.

Gould Beech worked at The Anniston Star and then became associate editor at The Montgomery Advertiser, where, under the guidance of Grover Hall, he wrote forceful editorials against racism, the KKK and in favor of anti-lynching laws, according to information from the University of Alabama. Keep in mind that this was in the 1930s.

He also helped Aubrey Williams start The Southern Farmer magazine, and worked with Big Jim Folsom in developing a populist message in the 1940s.

But the stands that Gould and Mary Beech took made them unpopular among many in Alabama, and they moved to Houston, Texas. There, Gould was instrumental in helping Barbara Jordan in her first campaign for office, and the couple worked toward integration in the city.

They eventually moved back to Alabama.

I was blessed to sit and talk with the couple at their home on the Magnolia River. We drank lemon iced tea and they talked about the years they spent trying to make a difference.

Gould proudly referred to himself as a “yellow dog” Democrat, despite the fact that he was living in the staunch Republican territory of Baldwin County.

In more than 15 years of working for newspapers, I have met and interviewed hundreds of people for articles, but I do not believe I have ever met a more gracious Southern couple.

Gould and Mary Beech are at the top of the list of people I most admired and had the utmost respect for – not just because of the unpopular stand they took and the price they paid for that, although that would be reason enough.

But they were two of the warmest, humblest people I ever met, and any time I was in their company, I found myself enthralled, amazed by their adventures, and their pure love of life.

Mary Beech died in July of 2000, and Gould died later that year in November.

If you are a true student of Civil Rights, and the early stages of that movement, these are two names you should know.

Alabama Public Television filmed a documentary about the couple, “Against the Mainstream” and there’s a lot of information on the web as well.

They had a vision for the South, and worked hard to see it come to fruition.

UA news quoted Gould Beech as saying, “I was cursed or blessed, as the case may be, with being able to see things as they really were in the South. Even then I was not tempted to leave it.”

Tammy Leytham is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.