The Honorable James “Eddie” Beckner has served on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Morristown for forty-one years. He has served as board president, vice-president, chairman of the President’s Council, program committee chair for over twenty years, as well as several other capacities. Judge Beckner has also served as Chairman of the Tennessee Area Council visiting all Club organizations in the state of Tennessee during his tenure. He also served on the Southeast Regional and National Area Council committees.
As program committee chairman for over twenty years he developed a policy that all new board members serve on the program committee in their first year. He felt it was imperative that all new members gain a deep awareness of the Club’s program and make sure that they were provided with opportunities for “hands-on” experience with Club members. While working closely with Club staff, volunteers and youth members, he recognized the needs of members and developed a multitude of programs to meet their needs.
One national award winning program he developed was the Boys and Girls Club Singers, along with his wife Carolyn, actually served as the first volunteer Choir Director. He often thinks of a young ten-year-old boy from public housing who joined the first choir but unfortunately “could not sing a lick”. Eight years later this same youngster was named to the All State Choir at his high school. This young man now serves as a Unit Director in the Morristown organization. Club members from the singers group have also performed at twenty-six regional and national functions for BGCA.
As this program flourished he led a $450,000 fundraising effort to build a cultural-education wing at the new facility complete with a mini theater, an art center and a state of the art Computer Center. Other programs he initiated included the Teen Night out program, the Challenger Talented and Gifted program for youth primarily from public housing, the Young Men of Distinction Program, and the Annual Teen Supreme Gospel Sing now in its eighteenth year. He also led a joint effort with the City of Morristown to develop a children’s park across from the main facility complete with a free flowing creek, an outdoor basketball court, a sheltered picnic area and a state-of-the-art playground.
Twelve years ago, Judge Beckner, seeking to ensure the financial future of the organization, instituted the Boys and Girls Club Foundation which is a separate non-profit entity with the sole purpose of raising funds through donor contributions, wills, bequests, trusts, insurance policies and other vehicles for future Club operations and new programs enhancements. He served as chairman of the Foundation for the first ten years and has secured over three million dollars for the Foundation.
Judge Beckner has literally dedicated his life to young people at the club and throughout the community. He has also personally taught over three hundred club members to water ski at his home on Cherokee Lake and was instrumental in opening new Clubs in Greene, Hawkins and Cocke County.