Native civil rights icon and group chief Invoice Beachy dies

When Westboro Baptist Church began preaching hate, Bill Beachy responded with love and the Love Your Neighbor program.

“Bill was an activist; He wanted to call people together and he wanted people to have their voices, ”said Jim McCollough, former executive director of the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice.

Several people told the Topeka Capital journal that Bill was a caring person with a passion for social justice and civil rights issues.

Beachy was Executive Director of the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice and Chairman of Topeka’s Human Relations Commission for 20 years. He helped create the Dr. Martin Luther King “Whose dream is this?” Celebration and brought prominent civil rights activists like John Lewis to Topeka to share their stories.

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“If there hadn’t been people like the Bill Beachys of the world who had brought people together to hear these powerful stories … we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Glenda Overstreet Vaughn, political affairs chairman at the NAACP of the state of Kansas.

Beachy died on February 25 at the age of 72. Dan Beachy, one of Bill’s younger siblings, said the exact causes of death are still unknown.

Overstreet Vaughn said true inclusivity was one of its core values. She said he was a calm person but passionate about the subjects that were important to him.

Beachy was born in Hutchinson and graduated from Hesston College, Antioch College and received a masters degree from Indiana University. Beachy was also the executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, Common Cause of Kansas, and a member of the executive committee of the Topeka NAACP branch.

Beachy spent his life in public service, including running the Washington, DC, Washington, DC office of Congressman Dan Glickman and successfully leading Governor John Carlin’s campaign.

“That sounds like Bill,” said Dan. “He wanted fairness, he wanted to help those who were less fortunate.”

Michael Bell recalled working with him on Topeka’s Human Relations Commission. Bell said he was instrumental in police reform and racial prejudice before the topic gained popularity.

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Bell said he and Beachy had complementary skills, which would be helpful if they opposed the abolition of the human relations commission. Bell said the positions of civil rights investigator, executive director and a clerk had been removed.

“Bill was inspirational because he was an optimist through and through no matter the realities life might throw before him,” said Bell. “He knew and always worked to get around these obstacles because he was really committed to equality.”

Beachy’s legacy lives on after his death.

Glenda DuBoise, the current executive director of the Center for Peace and Justice, said the programs he created still bring people together, like the Mainstream Voices of Faith program. This program has helped promote conversations between different religious groups.

“Bill found a way to do this by bringing the faith community and the entire community together to work on these solutions,” said DuBoise. “He found power in them.”

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