PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The nonprofit community of Hampton Roads this week will bid fair winds and following seas to Judge Richard Bray who spent 19 years at the helm of the Portsmouth-based Beazley Foundation Inc.
The foundation is named for Frederick Wharton Beazley.
In 1908, at the age of 16, Fred bought a mule and sold coal and oil door-to-door. Twenty years later, he was the story of success. Then in 1929, he lost everything due to the Great Depression. After the depression, he relocated to Atlanta, where at the age of 38, he started building a fortune in the ice and cold storage business.
He returned to Portsmouth in 1948 where he began to share his wealth. Beazley died in 1972 at the age of 84. A statue of Beazley greets students and faculty at the Portsmouth campus of Tidewater Community College.
Today, the foundation, under the direction of Bray and the Board of Trustees has assets of about 55-million dollars.
At the foundation’s headquarters in Portsmouth Bray proudly displays the 2019 book, “Mr. Beazley’s Legacy,” by writer Phyllis Speidell and photographer John H. Sheally II.
You may not have heard of the foundation but you know the names of the hundreds of organizations that have tapped the foundation’s resources to make life better for the hungry, the poor, those in need of a medical miracle, and those seeking higher education. Those are just a few of the needs that have been addressed by the foundation for more than 70 years.
Former Bray joined the foundation as president and CEO in 2002 after a distinguished career in law. He worked as an attorney for 17 years, he served as a Circuit Court judge in Portsmouth for two years, and he was later appointed to the Court of Appeals in Richmond where he served 11 years.
“We [the Board of Trustees and staff] sit around at this table and discuss what would Mr. Beazley want us to do,” said Bray from his office in the Midtown section of the city.
When the pandemic hit, the foundation was prepared to respond, but fewer organizations called for help. They called Washington instead.
Well, the Paycheck Protection Program came right along with that and that provided a tremendous amount of funding for the non-profit community,” said Bray.
This allowed The Beazley Foundation, with $55-million in assets, to offer larger grants to some of the most critical organizations in the region.
With the pandemic under control, Bray is stepping aside to make way for a new president and CEO Steve Best, the former Chesapeake fire chief and member of Chesapeake City Council, says he will respond to community needs by enhancing cooperation, collaboration and consolidation among the region’s nonprofits.
“When you talk about keeping your finger on the pulse and responding quickly, those are dimensions that in a community that creates opportunity,” said Best.
Bray told 10 On Your Side his service at the Beazley Foundation represents the most gratifying time of his life.
“I leave here with a heavy heart but a great successor,” said Bray.