Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
Running back Richard "Dickie" Beard, who was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1987, died Saturday.
Richmond Times-Dispatch | File
From left: Virginia Tech halfbacks Don Mitchell, Bobby Scruggs and Dickie Beard prepare for the 1953 season. Beard was Tech’s leading rusher each year from 1953-55.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
His teammates called him “Punchy.” But he was also known as “The Cumberland Flash.”
Richard “Dickie” Beard, who was a standout running back at Virginia Tech in the 1950s, died Saturday in hospice care at his Roanoke home at the age of 79.
Beard died of lymphoma, said his son Scott Beard. He had survived his first bout with cancer many years ago, but the cancer returned seven weeks ago.
“Dickie was one of the finest gentlemen you’d ever want to meet,” his friend and former Virginia Tech teammate Leo Burke said in a phone interview Tuesday. “He was someone who cared intensely about everyone.”
Beard, who rushed for 1,378 yards in his Hokies career, was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. He was part of the hall’s sixth class.
Beard, who grew up in Cumberland, Md., was a member of Virginia Tech’s last undefeated football team — the 1954 squad that went 8-0-1 under coach Frank Moseley.
“That undefeated record is something we’ve held onto for a long time,” Beard said in a 1999 interview.
Beard was the leading rusher of that 1954 team, running for 647 yards and two touchdowns on 128 carries. He ran for 140 yards on 19 carries in a 19-12 comeback win over Richmond.
Beard was named to the All-Southern Conference team that year and earned All-America honorable mention. He was named the state’s athlete of the year by the Associated Press.
“He was the star of the team,” Burke said. “You couldn’t shake him. If you’d tell him to run through the wall, he’d run through the wall.
“He had good speed, not exceptional speed, but he had good speed. He had tremendous balance.
“And he wasn’t afraid to hit in there. He’d not only skirt the ends, but he’d stick his nose in there when you just needed a yard or so.”
Because of his hometown, Beard was referred to as “The Cumberland Flash” during his Tech career. But his teammates called him “Punchy,” which was the nickname his older brother, Ralph, had when he played for the Hokies in the 1940s.
Dickie Beard also made 15 extra-point kicks in 1954, including one that secured a 7-7 tie with William and Mary.
The 1954 team, which did not go to a bowl, finished 16th in the final Associated Press poll.
“We were more than teammates. We were all friends,” Burke said. “We were like a big family. That’s the reason I came back to live here, is because of all those guys and the closeness we had.”
Another member of that 1954 team, Jack Prater, died last month. Beard and Prater had remained good friends.
That squad also included the late George Preas, who went on to help the Baltimore Colts win two NFL titles.
Beard, who played halfback, also led the Hokies in rushing in 1953 (349 yards) and in 1955 (382 yards). Tech went 19-8-2 in Beard’s three years on the varsity.
As a senior, Beard was co-captain of the 1955 team with Prater.
Beard had lived in Roanoke since moving to the city from North Carolina with his late wife, Wanda, and their family in 1973. He owned the Superior Service Company, a janitorial service in Roanoke that is now owned by his son Rick.
He had Tech football season tickets since 1973, and often went to road games with former teammates.
Beard is survived by four children and 15 grandchildren.
“He set a good example,” Scott Beard said.
Beard’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Summerdean Church of the Brethren in Roanoke.
Weather JournalMany very icy despite 'bust' claims