Atlanta, GA Forty years ago, Paul Beckham sat alone in a hotel room in Cairo, Egypt, sent there by his boss Ted Turner to set up a bureau for Turner's fledgling new cable news network, CNN. Paul had never heard of Ted Turner in the early 1970s when he joined a small company Turner Advertising as its first controller. But the work in Cairo was like many assignments during his illustrious career at Turner that didn't quite match his job description. Whether it was setting up news bureaus, meeting with the hierarchy of the Soviet Union, negotiating the purchase of massive amounts of land for his boss or stepping up in an emergency to run a global sports competition, Paul Beckham was a trusted senior officer behind the scenes assisting in building one of the world's most influential media companies.
Paul D. Beckham died on Sunday, August 30, of a heart attack at age 76 while working in his yard at home. An avid collector of antique automobiles, he died while working in the hobby he loved most, tinkering with one of his cars.
In business, he had a mercurial rise after starting with Turner. A native of Jackson, Georgia, he attended his beloved Young Harris College and then completed his accounting degree at Georgia State. He worked his way through school for five years in the accounting department at Georgia Power Company and joined Southern Airways for two years after graduation before going to work for Turner.
He helped organize the transition of Turner from a outdoor advertising company into television and spreading the broadcast signal through cable systems across the nation. He assisted in the purchases of the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and what became CNN Center. He oversaw the Omni Coliseum, Airport Channel, World Championship Wrestling, and took over as president of the Goodwill Games.
His "real jobs" at Turner included rising through the financial side of the business with stints as Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Financial Officer and eventually retiring as president of Turner Cable Sales, the largest division of Turner Broadcasting.
The next chapter of his business life has been working with his longtime friend Bob Hope to build their public relations and event agency, Hope-Beckham, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last October. The agency was recognized last month as one of the top 100 public relations agencies in the U.S.
Paul was active in the Atlanta business community, serving on the board of the Rotary Club of Atlanta. He finished his term this year as president of his Sunday school class at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. He has been a longtime trustee of Young Harris College, where he served for years as chairman of the board. He is also past chair of the Ethics Center at Emory University and continued to serve on that board.
He was a devoted family man, married to his wife Cheryl for 55 years. The is survived by his wife Cheryl as well as two adult children, Mike Beckham and Debbie Beckham Ruth and their spouses, Vanessa and Sean. There are six grandchildren — Bailey, Samantha, Nick and Zach Beckham, and Christina and Natalie Ruth.
A private burial was held for family. A celebration of his life will be schedule post-covid.
Donations in his memory can be sent to Young Harris College, Blairsville, Georgia 30582, or to Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta.