Each year, ACIA presents the Chairman’s Award to an outstanding leader in the concrete industry. This year’s recipient is a household name when it comes to Auburn University baseball.
Joe Beckwith, son of longtime Auburn University director of ticket sales Bill Beckwith and his wife, Marjorie, was born in 1955 and grew up playing baseball. He rose through the rec league ranks before deciding in his junior year to stick strictly to pitching and excelled as a senior in 1973 during a season in which the Tigers reached the state championship series for the first time ever.
Beckwith stayed close to home after high school and pitched at Auburn, where he again had outstanding success. He earned All-SEC honors twice and was an instrumental part of the 1976 Tigers’ team that reached the College World Series for only the second time in program history.
Beckwith played four years at Auburn and left with the most complete games (20), shutouts (6), ERA for a four-year pitcher (1.92), career strikeouts (241) and innings pitched (338). He was also Auburn’s starting pitcher in the first night game ever held at Plainsman Park.
He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977 and worked his way up to the Major League level over the next two years as a relief pitcher. His debut with Los Angeles on July 21, 1979 still stands as the only time an Auburn High baseball player reached the Majors.
Beckwith stayed with the Dodgers until 1984, when he joined the Kansas City Royals. He reached the pinnacle of his playing career on October 23, 1985, when he took the mound in Game 4 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Beckwith, who had not pitched in 17 days, entered the game in relief of starter Bud Black with the Royals trailing 3-0. Although a lead-off double by St. Louis second baseman Tom Herr made for an uncomfortable start, Beckwith settled in and retired the next three batters then threw another inning with no hits allowed. Kansas City ultimately won the World Series in seven games.
“It was totally different than ever pitching in a game. It was the biggest thrill of my life,” Beckwith said. “I knew my dad was sitting up in the stands. I came on, and I looked up in the stands at the row he bought and said, ‘OK, Dad, this is what I came here for.’ … That was the ultimate [experience] that any boy could ever, ever want.”
Beckwith retired from baseball following the 1986 season and accepted a concrete sales position with Williams Brothers Concrete in Atlanta. He was a natural salesman and quickly recognized as a rising star in the company. In 1990, he moved back home and took a position as General Manager of Williams Brothers for the Auburn area.
Soon after moving back, his peers in the concrete industry approached him about serving on the board of the ACIA. He agreed to help and joined the board in 1992. He went on to serve as Chairman of the ACIA from 1994 – 1995. Former association director Otis Russell often referred to Joe as one of the hardest chairman to work for, but one of the best chairman the association ever had.
By 1998, Joe had become known as one of the top salesmen in the southeast and his relationship with big customers was unparalleled. The Concrete Company approached Joe about becoming VP of Sales and he accepted the challenge. Todd Daigle, who served as VP of Operations for The Concrete Company described Joe as a master of relationships and a deal closer.
“As an operations man, I was grateful to have Joe selling concrete and keeping the trucks rolling,” Daigle said. “You could always count on Joe to bring home the concrete volume.”
During Joe’s time with the company, they grew to be one of the largest independent ready-mix producers in the state of Georgia and Alabama.
In 2003, Joe was ready for a new challenge and accepted a position with Ready Mix USA. By this time, his phone contact list was a ‘who’s who’ of contractors in the southeast, so the company tasked him with commercial sales across Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
“We have relied on Joe Beckwith to supply all of our ready mixe concrete needs in the Auburn-Columbus area for more than 30 years,” said Ab Conner of Conner Brothers Construction. “We have trusted Joe to make sure we received a quality product at a competitive price. He is a knowledgeable and consummate professional in his field. Joe is an exceptional person in his dealings with others. He is a strong Christian, dedicated family man, trustworthy, compassionate and the best friend you could have.”
Beckwith’s latest recognitions have come during a very trying time. His stage 4 colon cancer has metastasized, and that the condition is terminal.
“It’s been a tough road right now fighting cancer. It’s not an easy battle. It’s a deadly disease that’s hard to recover from, but I will fight it to the end,” Beckwith recently told a crowd in Auburn where he was being honored on the field.
“It’s like I’m in the ninth inning right now. I’m in the ninth inning and we’re ahead by one, and I’m going to keep that score. We’re going to win this game, and we’re going to win this battle.”
Another one of Beckwith’s customers and friends Allen Harris, CEO of Bailey Harris wrote a heartfelt letter when he heard he was receiving the Chairman’s Award. The letter left no doubt how much he is appreciated by the contracting community.
“My precious friend Joe avoided the limelight, instead, he would wander about following up until the pour was finished and stay ready for the next one. His focus and his training of his staff has been a key factor in the ability of Bailey Harris Construction to perform on large concrete projects in our state. Joe
became one of my closest friends, one respected, enjoyed, cherished and trusted beyond words. I am a better man from my association with Joe. And I can tell you and the world, dozens upon dozens of people will tell you the exact same thing.”