Beckett, W. Timothy (1924–2012)

By: Camille Davis

Type: Biography

Published: June 17, 2013

Updated: June 11, 2013

W. Timothy Beckett, educator, principal, and administrator, son of H. B. Beckett and Effie (Matthews) Beckett, was born on January 19, 1924, in Haslam, Texas. He grew up in Dallas and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. He attended Paul Quinn College in Waco but received his bachelor’s degree in 1942 from Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson University in Austin). After graduating, Beckett began teaching civics to eighth-graders at J. P. Starks Elementary School in Dallas. Once he left J. P. Starks, he taught at H.S. Thompson Elementary in Dallas.

In 1956 Beckett began teaching at Dallas’s Madison High School after receiving his master’s degree that same year from Texas Southern University in Houston. After only working briefly at Madison, Beckett requested permission to be reinstated as an elementary school instructor. In 1958 he became the principal of Wheatley Elementary School in Dallas. He later became the principal of Paul Dunbar and Albert Sidney Johnston elementary schools. In a 2012 article for the Dallas Morning News, Beckett’s daughter gave comic expression to her father’s career preferences by explaining that he “refused to deal with anybody above eighth grade.” Beckett remained an elementary school principal for thirteen years.

After working as a principal, Beckett became an administrator for the Dallas Independent School District. He worked with the personnel, building, and transportation departments. He eventually rose to the level of deputy associate superintendent and retired in 1982 after a career that spanned approximately thirty years. After retirement, Beckett began working for the Dallas school district part-time as a recruiter and briefly provided assistance with the Dallas summer youth program.

In 1984 he began a new career as an asbestos inspector for the Environmental Protection Agency. During his tenure with the EPA, Beckett helped to rewrite the agency’s hazardous material manual for high school custodians. His goal was to ensure that the manuals were written thoroughly but also simply enough for an average reader to understand them. Beckett worked for the EPA until 1999.

W. Timothy Beckett led an equally successful and active personal life. He married Helen Wiggan on October 6, 1948. Three children were born to their union: one son, Dr. W. Timothy Beckett; and two daughters, Myrna Beckett-Burnside and Winifred Beckett-Lasley. He attended the St. John Missionary Baptist Church for eighty-three years. During his tenure, he served as a member of the trustee board, the deacon board, and as a Sunday school teacher and Sunday school superintendent. His dedication to the youth of his church was so great that he was willing to break his longtime professional rule about not dealing with anyone over eighth grade. At St. John, he taught a Sunday school class for high school seniors. In addition to being a member of St. John, Beckett was a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

W. Timothy Beckett passed away on May 30, 2012, from Alzheimer’s disease in Arlington, Texas. His funeral services were held on June 4, 2012, at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, and he was entombed in the Laurel Land Cemetery mausoleum. His wife and children, as well as his eight grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, and six great-great grandchildren survived him.

Dallas Morning News, June 3, 6, 2012.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • School Principals and Superintendents
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Camille Davis, “Beckett, W. Timothy,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 29, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 17, 2013
June 11, 2013

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