By Chris H. Bennett,
Chair, The Seattle Medium Group
The State of Washington lost one of its truly great Citizens and the State’s African American Community lost a truly great icon and leader with the passing of community activist and former Yakima mayor, Henry Beauchamp, Jr. Mr. Beauchamp was born in Clinton, Louisiana on November 9, 1933 to Henry Beauchamp, Sr. and Cornelia Smith Beauchamp. He passed away peacefully with a smile Thursday, April 25, 2013 at the Leon Sullivan Health Care Center in Seattle, Washington, among loving friends and caretakers. At age 13 his family moved to Yakima, Washington in 1946, where he made his home until his passing.
Henry, with a signature smile, was known as a committed, passionate and effective civil rights leader. Yakima, a small central Washington town, with a small and close knit African-American community elected Beauchamp as its first and only African American Mayor.
Growing up in the segregated south, Henry never forgot the fear and humiliation of being Black in the South. It was during the Jim Crow era that his roots put him on a lifelong mission to fight for racial and economic justice, a path that spanned across Washington State. A realist, Beauchamp realized that if he worked for the benefit of all people, his people, African Americans, would benefit also. That vision led to the founding of Yakima’s Opportunities Industrialization Center (YOIC), a nonprofit agency providing education, work and housing services. Furthermore, this vision also allowed Henry’s political path to cross all racial lines and barriers to be elected by the people and he served almost a quarter century on the Yakima City Council and two terms as the City’s mayor.
A graduate from Yakima High School, Beauchamp was a master bricklayer by trade. However, in 1967, his activist mission began when he was appointed the director of the Southeast Yakima Community Center, which is an anti–poverty community action agency. Beauchamp championed Yakima’s block grant program, which spent more than $20 million to rehabilitate housing and improve neighborhoods; he also helped create the Substance Abuse Coalition and Yakima’s first anti-gang program, and pushed the city to open its workforce to women and ethnic minorities. He was unafraid and didn’t shy away from controversy when it came to jobs and business opportunities for Blacks and other minorities. He challenged the hiring practices of local unions raising issues of racial and economic discrimination against Black and Hispanic workers.
Henry Beauchamp was little known outside of the central and eastern Washington communities, however, that soon changed in the 2002 when he and his Board of Directors stepped up to the plate to help save Washington State’s only African American nursing home. After a bitter and hard fight by a half dozen community activists against the State’s first minority Governor, Gary Locke, the State’s Attorney General’s Office, and the State’s huge, mammoth agency DSHS, prospectors, developers and community rip off artists, Beauchamp and his YOIC Board rescued the failing facility through a little known underground highly effective networking of African Americans by one of the group’s activist. At their first meeting, Henry and the community activist discovered that both groups had one champion – God. Henry and his group came in praying and the group continued to trust God with their prayers— prayers that defeated all efforts of the State and community agency’s snitches and provocateurs. The angels of God that are often sent to answer His people’s prayers were realized.
Henry loved the Lord and in all ways acknowledged Him and served Him. He never wavered in his faith and belief that all things work through Him. Every major decision he made in his private and public life included strong deliberation and prayer for guidance. He was a member and faithful servant of the Morning Star Church of Christ Holiness for 56 years, where he served on the Board of Trustees, the Deacon Board, as a choir member, Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, and various other offices. As we say our last farewell to our departed Brother, Henry Beauchamp, Jr., we also salute his great work and many contributions. The family and the community will miss his presence, but his spirit and legacy remain very much alive, Matthew 25: 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Rest in peace, you have fought the good fight.
As important as his public service was, Henry’s love of his family and their well-being was always his first priority. He is survived by his loving spouse, friend and helpmate of 57 years, Wilma Jean Mitchell Beauchamp; one son, Jon Mark Beauchamp; one daughter, Korie L. Beauchamp; six grandchildren, Africa, Michael, Tyler, DeMarcus, Jazmyn, and Mar’Jon; six great grandchildren; one sister, Jeri Beauchamp Mims of Tacoma, WA, and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and other extended family and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, five siblings and one daughter.
Visitation will be held on Friday, May 3, 2013 from 3-7:00 PM at Shaw & Sons funeral Directors 201 N. 2nd St. in Yakima.
Funeral services will be held at Saturday, May 4,2013 at 11:00am at Mourning Star Church 509 N. 4th St. in Yakima with interment services following at Tahoma Cemetery in Yakima.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to NAACP Youth Services, 1211 S. 7th ST, Yakima WA 98901
To the family and friends of Henry Beauchamp, Jr., we leave you with this scripture: John 14: 1-4 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”