Local Obituaries

Church deacon who fought against discrimination at Pan Am, Amtrak dies at 84

Petro Wallace Beacham, deacon of Jesus People Ministries Church International in Miami Gardens. He also worked for Pan Am and Amtrak.
Petro Wallace Beacham, deacon of Jesus People Ministries Church International in Miami Gardens. He also worked for Pan Am and Amtrak.

Deacon Petro Wallace Beacham of Jesus People Ministries Church International was not a child of the texting generation.

Still, Beacham, who died on May 23 of pancreatic cancer at 84, was known to send texts and emails to members of his Miami Gardens church, as well as to family and friends.

“He would send people a daily word of encouragement,” his daughter Courtney Michelle Beacham said. “People would look for those texts and emails, even if it was for paternal wisdom or how to navigate through their lives. That’s what a lot of people loved him for.”

In 2011, the church’s 8,000 members chose him Father of the Year. More recently, in April, many gathered again, along with community leaders like Enid Pinkney, to honor Beacham and his wife of 57 years, Winifred Cox-Beacham, as they prepared to move to Atlanta to be near their daughter Walline Renee Williams and son-in-law Richard Williams.

“The Beachams are the kind of people who will pray with you and for you and will always have something uplifting to say to you, just at the right time,” wrote Bea Hines in her Miami Herald Neighbors in Religion column.

Beacham, born April 3, 1933, in Soperton, Ga., studied at Tuskegee University, where he discovered a love for the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He served in the Air Force from 1952 to 1956 and moved to Miami, where he met his future wife.

He cared about people. Loved to cook ribs and all kinds of soul food and would take those dishes to everyone — from the church, to neighbors to family.

Courtney Beacham, on her father Petro Beacham.

In the 1970s, Beacham was a supervisor at Pan Am. At Amtrak, where he’d remain for 25 years, he also worked in management. At both companies, he fought against discriminatory hiring practices and wage discrepancies detrimental to African Americans, his family said.

“He was successful in both,” Courtney Beacham said. “He was so passionate. He met with his congressman [the late William Lehman] to get some resolve there.”

In 1999, he joined Jesus People Ministries as deacon, usher and a member of the finance ministry.

“The greatest thing about him is he was an encourager,” Courtney said. “‘Don’t sit on the sidelines of life,’ he’d say. ‘Get into the game because you can do it.’”

Beacham’s survivors also include children Charlotte Jones and Petro Wallace Beacham Jr.; 12 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; three great-great grandchildren; sisters Ruby Touchstone, Julia Mae Reese and Ernestine Weathers, and brother William Beacham.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Jesus People Ministries Church International, 4055 NW 183rd St., Miami.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen