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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » William “Bill” R. Beachy ’73

William “Bill” Beachy, age 72, died Feb. 25, 2021.

When the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, 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 sound their voices,” said Jim McCollough, former executive director at the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice.

Multiple people told The Topeka Capital-Journal that Bill was a caring person with a passion for social justice and civil rights issues.

Beachy spent 20 years as the executive director of the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice and also chaired Topeka’s Human Relations Commission. He helped create the Dr. Martin Luther King “Whose Dream Is It?” celebration and brought prominent civil rights leaders, like John Lewis, to Topeka to share their stories.

“If it had not been for people like the Bill Beachys of the world, who brought people together so they could hear those impactful stories … we would not be where we are today,” said Glenda Overstreet Vaughn, political affairs chair for Kansas State NAACP.

Dan Beachy, one of Bill’s younger siblings, said the exact causes of Bill Beachy’s death are still unknown.

Overstreet Vaughn said genuine inclusiveness is one of his core values. She said he was a quiet person, but passionate about the issues he cared about.

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

Beachy spent his life in public service, which included running the Washington, D.C., office for Congressman Dan Glickman and successfully managing Gov. John Carlin’s campaign.

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

Michael Bell recalled serving with him on Topeka’s Human Relations Commission. Bell said he was instrumental in working toward police reform and racial bias before the topic gained mainstream popularity. Bell said he and Beachy had complementary skills, which helped when they were pushing back against the elimination of the human relations commission department. Bell said the civil rights investigator position, the executive director and an office assistant were removed.

“Bill was inspirational because he was an optimist through and through, regardless of the realities that life might throw in front of him,” Bell said. “He always knew and worked for the ways around those obstacles because he was truly committed to equality.”

Beachy’s legacy lives on even after his death.

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

“Bill found a way to do it by bringing the faith-based community and the community at large together to work on those solutions,” DuBoise said. “He found power in those.”