We lost one of racing's really talented folks on D-Day when Bailey, North Carolina native J.E. Beard passed. Cancer finally beat the guy his competitors couldn't.
J.E. was both a championship driver and engine builder whose motors won at Darlington and back to back at the Daytona 500.
I first encountered J.E. driving a 6-cylinder car around 1973 on the dirt at Wilson County Speedway. The car was distinctive because on its rear deck was the drawing of a mule with a hind leg raised and the cartoon caption, "BAD AIR."
J.E. would go on to become Late Model champion at Wilson battling Al Grinnan, Mutt Powell and Bud Elliott among other great dirt stars of the 70s.
J.E.'s talents got him onto the asphalt where he competed at Cumberland International, Trico andCaraway in his familiar #59 carrying the Jack Tant Automotive wing. He was also successful at Martinsville against the best of the best. His #22 Mitchell Bros. Supermarket car won best appearing car at Clay Earles' Virginia oval.
I was privileged to be in victory lane at Darlington representing Oldsmobile Division when Lake Speed scored his only career Winston Cup win in a car powered by a J.E. Beard engine at the 1988 TranSouth 500. Later J.E. would work out of the Morgan-McClure stable in Abingdon, Virginia where his hands were involved with the engines that carried Sterling Marlin to back-to-back Daytona wins in the #4 Kodak ride.
R.I.P., J.E. You kicked up a heck of a rooster tail on the Wilson County dirt.
J.E.'s wife, Barbara is a member here at RR.
John "JE" Edsel Beard III Obituary
Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
After a year long battle with cancer, JE as he was known to all his friends, died peacefully at home surrounded by family and loved ones. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Jean and Edsel Beard, a daughter, Stacey Beard, his grandson, Kevin Dale Beard. He is survived by his loving wife of 22 years, Barbara, son Kevin and wife Debbie, his sisters Sherry Beard Tant and Jimmy, Kay Beard and Greg Nelson. His grandchildren, Sierra, Heather, Brittany and Tyler and special fur babies, Petey and Pepper.
Growing up in Bailey, NC, JE was known for his athleticism, and was a standout basketball player for Bailey High School for four years. His skills earned him a scholarship to Louisburg College, which he declined to follow his true passion, which he had inherited from his fathers racing career. Through the early and mid 70s, he first started driving for Root Perry. Next came Herman Sadler then partnering and driving with Wayne Collie and his father, JE dominated the local racing scene. One of his greatest memories was of a challenged race against Dale Earnhardt in Fayetteville, NC, which would have earned a slot in the Charlotte 500. JE started on the inside pole and lead every lap, only to be passed by Dale at the finish line. Although disappointed they remained lifelong friends. Even though his driving skills were legendary in NC and VA racing communities, it was his ability to build racing engines that took him to Charlotte and NASCAR. Under the tutelage of Jack Tant, he gained the knowledge and ability to build race engines that could compete and win at the NASCAR level. During his career he built engines for such NASCAR notables as Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty and in 1988 with Lake Speed winning his first NASCAR race at the Transouth 500 at Darlington SC. However, his proudest accomplishment came after a move to Abingdon, VA and joining the Morgan McClure Racing Team and being recognized for his work on the engines used by Sterling Marlin in his Back to Back Daytona 500 wins. For this he received two Daytona 500 rings, the first of which he gifted to his father. Over the years there were many articles of JE written in racing publications and he appeared in several NASCAR documentaries but with all the accolades he always remained humble and a true friend to anyone he ever met, especially his little buddy Stevie Eatmon.
A celebration of JE's life will be held at a later date.
Because of his love for animals, in lieu of flowers, the family ask that donations be made to: Highlands Stray Fund, VCA Highland Animal Hospital, 25011 Lee Hwy, Abingdon, VA 24211 (276) 628-4115.
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
updated by @dave-fulton: 12/05/16 04:02:07PM