John D. Rockefeller Beck was born August 20th, 1934, in Eufaula, Alabama, to the union of Annie Lee and Sam Beck, Sr. He was preceded in death by his parents and Barbara E. Beck, his wife of fifty-four years, and three siblings, Ellis, Lila, and Ester, his daughter Aria Doe, son Carlos Beck, and granddaughter Lyric Doe.
It was evident that he had a strong aptitude for leadership early. His family moved to Pensacola, FL, when he was very young, and this is where he cultivated his joy of teaching, music, and using his leadership role to inspire others to achieve their goals and claim their talents. His academic journey started with graduating from Booker T Washington High School class of 1952 and then attending Florida A&M University class of 1956 with a degree in education. He later received his Master's Degree in education from the University of West Florida in tandem with being a husband and father to his four teenage children.
As a student at FAMU, he dazzled the crowds as a first-line trumpet player as a member of the world-famous "The Incomparable Marching 100". The Marching "100" is a highly acclaimed organization that has been polished and refined to perfection for the past 104 years. The FAMU Marching 100 is one of the oldest and most successful HBCU marching bands globally. In addition, he pledged and became a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in 1955, which is the first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of a historically black college in 1911.
His illustrious career as an educator spanned over 50 years of service as a mentor to his students and institutions. He was the Band Director at Ransom Middle School won many competitions under his direction. His mentorship role evolved into becoming Dean at Tate High School, then becoming Assistant Principal at Pine Forest High School. The pinnacle of his career as an educator in the sense of supporting an entire school's leadership system was becoming Principal at AA Dixon Elementary. The environment where he created community, family, and leadership still impacts students today and his pivotal role in their lives.
His positive influence on his young students was evident throughout his career. Former student Al Martin recently mentioned him by name in his children's book "Al's Ten Fingers: He used them to play music," which genuinely encompassed his impact on his students. Many students still love and revere him, who kept in touch long after his retirement and held several celebrations honoring him over the years. His former students raised funds for a brick plaque in his honor in music education and one for his wife Barbara at the Saenger Theatre in downtown Pensacola. He also was a member of the Florida Music Educators Association, The Music Educators National Conference.
In addition to his professional and social involvements, he was very active in his church First United Methodist. He was very involved in the mass choir, rarely missing a rehearsal and the delicious dinners that proceeded them. John D. was a strong advocate for voting and never missed casting his vote during every presidential election. He also served his country as a member of The United States Army Reserve.
John D. was the life of every celebration; his energy for life and unfiltered unapologetic expression was a lesson to all of us to always be our authentic selves. His love for gardening, playing the piano, socializing, singing, music, dancing, and passion for "piping hot" food temperature were all uniquely John. He was always active, walking miles a day serval months before his passing.
John D. led the way until the end with his dynamic quotes and stories, solid advice, steady encouragement, and cheeky humor, which we will all miss deeply. He lit up the room with his smile and spirit, and his smooth dance moves well into his 80's showed that life should be enjoyed and celebrated. His unwavering helpfulness, integrity, accountability, and guidance were the reflection of his love to us all.
He is survived by his brothers James Beck and Sam Beck, daughters Alicia Jeffers and Joanette Rankins. His grandchildren Jocelyn Jeffers, Michael Rankins, Barbara Rankins, Weddy Doe, Semeo Doe, Meredith Beck, Carlos Beck, Raven Beck, and great-grandchildren Zayden Doe, Louis Beck, Michael Rankins, Shawn Rankins, Johnathan Rankins, and Natalie Rankins, and a plethora of other relatives.
One of his favorite quotes, "The darkest hour is just before the dawn," was very fitting because his passing was a week before the dawn of a new year. He left us with the hope of better days to come!