Charles Beard, airline executive, was born in Toledo, Ohio, on November 23, 1900, the son of Hiram Edmund and Mamie (Reiser) Beard. He received his early education at Lake Forest Academy. At the age of sixteen he convinced the United States Navy that he was eighteen and enlisted as a carpenter's mate. He signed up for aerial-gunnery school and graduated third in a class of 400. He then worked as an instructor at the Great Lakes training station as chief gunner's mate. After being discharged he went to Lake Forest College and the University of Toledo, where he studied English, journalism, and history to prepare himself for a career in newspapers. He then moved to Chicago to work as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News. This lasted only a short time because he tried to pursue a stage career in New York on what was at that time called the Subway Circuit. In 1922 he met Rose Ester Wheaton, a native of Kokomo, Indiana. He moved with her to Toledo, Ohio, where he took a job working in a warehouse for eighteen dollars a week. Charles and Rose were married on February 23, 1923. In 1928 Beard left the warehouse, where he had risen to the office of sales manager. In 1929 he took a job as a consolidated ticket manager for the Chicago Air Traffic Association. He was called to New York in 1932 to organize a consolidated ticket office there. He was offered the job of passenger-traffic manager for Northwest Airways in 1933 and remained there until President F. D. Roosevelt restructured the existing airmail contracts and pushed the airline business into a slump. Between 1933 and 1935 Beard worked for Chevrolet at the Chicago Worlds Fair and for Goodyear Rubber.
In October 1935 he accepted a job with Braniff Airways as general traffic manager. By 1937 he had become a vice president and a member of the board of directors and was in charge of all traffic, sales, and advertising. In 1943 he was made a member of a five-man executive committee established by the board. By 1947 he was executive vice president. He was elected president of Braniff in January 1954, following the death of Thomas E. Braniff in a plane crash. During his time as president Braniff Airways grew into a top-ten national carrier. Beard initiated flights to Latin America and South America and was decorated for doing so; in May 1957 he was given the Order of Merit (Peru), and in February 1960 he was given the Order of Balboa (Panama) for his contributions to goodwill between the United States and Latin America. He was given an honorary doctorate of commercial science by the University of Toledo in April 1964. He retired from Braniff in April 1965.
Beard was also a director of the First National Bank of Dallas, a member of the executive committee of the Frito-Lay Corporation, and a director of the Lone Star Cement Company. He was involved in many civic groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Texas Tourist Council, and the Southwestern Legal Foundation. He was director of the Air Transport Association for several years and president of the Air Traffic Conference. He was also a member of the Air Transport Committee of the United States Council of the International Chamber of Commerce. In 1955 he wrote a short profile of Thomas E. Braniff that was published by the Newcomen Society.
He had a son and a daughter, seven grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren. In September of 1963 his wife died, and he shortly thereafter was remarried to a second wife, Barbara. Beard died on July 18, 1982, in Dallas, Texas.