Distinguished Alumnus 2001
The 2001 recipient of the Cameron Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award has had an interesting succession of careers and although he received his bachelors and masters degrees in fine arts from the University of Northern Colorado, he credits Cameron with having the most positive influence on his life and giving him the background to pursue his life's interests.
Charlie Beecham was born in Minco, Oklahoma, graduated from Anadarko High School and attended Cameron in 1939 through 1941 on a band scholarship, majoring in speech and music. He played trombone under the direction of Howard Way and became a member of the 158th Field Artillery Band, 45th Division, Oklahoma National Guard. He was on the speech and drama team and was awarded a gold medal for after dinner speaking.
His education was interrupted when he became an Air Force pilot, serving during three wars, the Berlin Airlift and extended cold war activity over a period of 30 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission against Budapest, Hungary and also received the Air Medal, 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, 5 Battle Stars and the Meritorious Service Medal. He flew 50 missions as a B-17 pilot with the 15th Air Force, 2nd Bomb Group based in Italy during World War II. He was one of three former 2nd Bomb Group aircrew members of the first shuttle raid to Russia who were selected to return to Poltava, Ukraine, for a 50th anniversary monument dedication and to receive a commemorative medal from Boris Yeltsin. He was also the only American honored in a lower Austria exhibition in 1995 where his flight jacket and other items were featured. For the Berlin Airlift, he was awarded the Air Medal and Medal for Humane Action.
After military retirement, Charlie launched not one but several careers......to include acting, painting, sculpting and teaching. He has received best actor awards for roles in community and regional theatre and has appeared in many television commercials including WalMart, Show Biz and Chuck E. Cheese Pizza. Television series feature roles include appearances on Walker, Texas Ranger and on Dallas as the minister who married J.R. and Cally. Motion picture speaking roles include D.O.A., After the Rain, Dark Before Dawn, and Bonny and Clyde the True Story.
His paintings which document the heritage of the west are in collections throughout the world and he was selected as the artist for Gov. and Mrs. Keating's friends of the mansion year 2000 Christmas card. A half-block mural in El Reno which celebrates the heritage of El Reno, Canadian County and western Oklahoma, was painted by Charlie. He is also a professional sculptor. Some of his works include memorials at the United States Air Force Museum Garden at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, McConnell Air Force Base, and Heroes Plaza in El Reno which is the only monument in Oklahoma which honors those who died in the four great wars of the 20th century.
He has served as an adjunct professor at Redlands Community College and received their Outstanding Service Award. The El Reno Chamber of Commerce has honored him twice with their Outstanding Citizen Award. In his spare time, he serves as a docent for the Fort Reno Visitor's Center and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.