Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

I Learned a Lot from John Q. Beard

John Q Beard

Congratulations to John Quincy Beard for receiving the John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award.

The honor is well deserved. You can read a thumbnail sketch of Mr. Beard’s extraordinary career in the Spring 2015 N.C. State Bar Journal:

The Erwin native earned his undergraduate degree from Duke in 1958 and his law degree from Duke Law School in 1960. He practiced at two of the top firms in the state for 30 years. He was a North Carolina Bar Association president and State Bar councilor He was a founding member and director of Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company – the first bar-related legal malpractice provider in the country – and served as its president for many years.

These are the facts. Straightforward and objective. They speak for themselves as testimony to a professional life of weight and significance.

When We and the World Were Young(er)

But I have seen another side of the man whose many memos to me were signed JQB. A more personal side.

A lifetime ago I left a job as a newspaper reporter to become risk manager at Lawyers Mutual. JQB was my boss. All I recall from my initial interview was that we talked about baseball. This was back in the early 1990s when my world was a whirl – living in Chapel Hill, raising five children, commuting every day to downtown Raleigh.

[Full disclosure: my office in those days was down the hall from JQB and NCBA Executive Director Allan Head. Sometimes my children (ranging in age from three to twelve at the time) would come visit me at work. They found it uproariously funny that I worked with Mr. Beard (who actually had a beard!) and Mr. Head (who actually had a head!) – especially daughter Mary Ann, whose teacher was Ms. Lipps (who actually had lips!)].

But I digress.

Early in my tenure at Lawyers Mutual my son Bo underwent minor surgery. It was no big deal. He was in and out of the hospital and back home within hours. When I left for work he was sitting on the couch quite happily watching cartoons, drinking sweet tea and eating a bologna sandwich.

Family First

Still, being a parent, I was worried. I kept calling home for progress reports. Having trouble focusing on work, I calmed my racing thoughts with a game or two (or two hundred) of computer solitaire. [Disclosure: this was back in the dark ages when computers were new and mesmerizing and a risk manager could spend hours transfixed by the greenish glow as a deck of playing cards magically shuffled, dealt and arranged themselves in neat rows onscreen.)

My distraction must have been apparent, because colleagues kept checking in on me. Word filtered through the office grapevine to JQB, who barged into my office around noon.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Gulp. I thought I had been busted for computer solitaire.

“I said what are you doing?”

Deftly, without breaking eye contact, I snaked an arm across my desk and surreptitiously switched off the monitor. The screen faded to a single pinpoint of light on my Vegas-style winning hand.


“No,” he said. “I mean what are you doing here at the office? I heard your child is sick.”

“He’s all better now.”

It was true. In the last dispatch from home I learned Bo was playing outside and begging to be allowed to go to school.

Meanwhile, JQB was rapidly losing patience with me. [Disclosure: this was not an infrequent occurrence. When it came to being a risk manager I was a perfectly capable newspaper reporter. I managed to scrape by in those early days only through the grace of Connie Crumpler, John Hester and Wayne Stephenson and the talents of a multi-tasking miracle of a paralegal.]

“Go home,” he barked. “Right now. Family comes first.”

And so I did. Next morning when I arrived at work he was waiting for me with a look of concern clouding his face. Had he inspected my computer and discovered my solitaire trove?

No, he was interested in my son’s health.

“How is he?”


“Are you sure?”

“Yes. I just dropped him off at school.”

“What? That’s too soon. Go get him and take him back home. You stay there too. Family comes first.”

I didn’t go home, there was really no need. It was one of the few times I disobeyed my boss. But his compassion and genuine empathy had not been lost on me.

Law, Life, Love

I have not seen or talked to JQB in years. Looking back, I have these random recollections: 

  • He loved his family.
  • He loved the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • He loved Duke.
  • He loved – really, really loved – Lawyers Mutual.
  • He loved the law, being a lawyer, and the NCBA.
  • He loved to laugh.
  • He loved learning new things and had a ferocious intellect.
  • He loved to walk very fast.
  • He loved movies, art and literature.
  • He loved being the first one in the office every morning and the last one to leave.

That’s a lot of love for one person. But that’s the John Quincy Beard I knew, and I loved working for him.

Source: NC State Bar Journal,1.pdf

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney who has practiced North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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