THE ABUNDANT LIFE OF BYRON TRUMAN LABEACH
“A Tribute to their father from his children”
By Orville Brown
Byron Truman LaBeach was born October 11, 1930, in Kingston, Jamaica, to Samuel LaBeach, businessman, and his wife Julia. Byron was the youngest boy in a family rich in athletic talent. His brothers were George, Harold, Donald, Lloyd, and Samuel. The LaBeach family produced world class athletes for two consecutive Olympiads and the vein of talent has appeared in two succeeding generations which might make the family unique in the world of sport and has given it a rich athletic legacy. After successful collegiate careers at Morgan State University and the University of Wisconsin, Samuel and Lloyd represented Panama at international track events. Sam, nicknamed “Speedy” won the 400 meters in the 1948 Bolivarian Games, was selected for the Olympic squad but had to drop out with a pulled hamstring which practically ended his international career. Although they were living in Jamaica in 1948, both Sam and Lloyd ran under the flag of Panama as Samuel Sr. saw it fit to have them represent Panama which had been their home for twelve years from 1917 to 1929. The parents had migrated to Panama in 1917 where thousands of Jamaicans had gone to work on the famous canal. After working on the canal, Samuel Sr. had founded a limousine service that was sometimes used by the president of Panama, and he became a prominent resident there before he returned to Jamaica.
Lloyd was outstanding at the 1948 Olympics. He had briefly held the world record for the 100 meters before the games and when the gun went off in the Olympic finals, he won the bronze medal in a blanket finish with Barney Ewell and Harrison Dillard. He won the bronze also in the 200 meters. Samuel and Lloyd were not an easy act to follow but Byron, the youngest sibling, stepped up and became an outstanding athlete and coach. At the age of twenty-one, still not in his physical prime, he went to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki as the reserve member of the famous group of heroes who won gold in the 4×400; Les Laing, Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, and George Rhoden. He qualified and competed in the 100 meters as well but did not make it to the final. A year later, still only twenty-two, Byron competed at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Mexico City where he won silver in the 100 meters, bronze in the 200, and won gold in the 4×100 on a team with Laing, Rhoden, and Keith Gardner. He would have been in his prime for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, but Jamaica chose not to send a team for reasons which might have included team strength, distance, and expense. Byron never got the chance to outdo himself in the greatest
games and ended his personal track career right there.
But Byron did not say goodbye to track and field or to the USA. In the course of his army service,
he became a mentor to athletes as the assistant coach for the US 25th Infantry Division, Special
Troop Track Team. He shepherded promising athletes from Jamaica with track scholarships to his
alma mater, Morgan State University, he chaired the overseas Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA)
and he guided promising athletes in the Bronx community at the Harry S. Truman High School, the
New York Pioneers Track Club, and the Northeast Educational Centre.
Byron also developed the athletic talent in the second and third generations of the LaBeach family.
His son Byron Jr. was Bronx Champion in 1984 for Harry S. Truman High School in the 800 meters
and won gold in 1985 in the 4×800 meters relay. His daughter Monique between 1979 and 1983 was
member of the Harry S. Truman High School 4×400 relay , the 4×200 relay and cross-country teams,
winning medals in multiple meets in the New York City Tri-state area respectively, and Bronx
champion in the high jump (1981). She competed in the Colgate Indoor Games held at the Pratt
Institute in Brooklyn, NY. She has fond memories of spending long Saturdays with her father, “her
first coach,” who shared unique strategies on running ‘the turns,” on indoor tracks. His daughter
Julie occupied a different athletic role as a Track and Field Event Official and Starter for USA Track
and Field, is presently a USATF Association Committee Member, and Vice-Chair of Awards,
Southern California Association – USATF Officials. Julie also produced the rising star in the
LaBeach firmament in the person of her daughter Nia. Now eleven years old, this young lady has
been twice the USATF Junior Olympic Champion in the Long Jump (2018 and 2019), and 2021
AAU Junior Olympic Champion in the 400 meters with a best time of 59.51 seconds. The world of
athletic success lies before her as she continues what could be the richest athletic legacy anywhere in
the world. So that, although the figure of Byron LaBeach has left the running track, although he is
no longer seen through the camera’s eye, his blood still flows on the tartan, his spirit still flies at the
tape, for to live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die.
Athletics had been an integral part of the life of Byron Truman LaBeach, but this is not the whole
story. He was a highly educated man, a soldier in the U.S. army, a successful businessman, a caring community man, a devoted family man and a loyal son of Jamaica. He received his secondary education at St. Georges College, one of Jamaica’s elite high schools, where he played Manning Cup Football and competed at the Penn Relays from 1951 to 1952 as a member of the 400 meters and 800 meters relay teams. At Morgan State, the scene of his outstanding collegiate athletic success, he took the BS in Physical Education. He served his adopted country during the Korean War where he was an assistant to the chaplain and upon his discharge, he did postgraduate studies at California State University to take his Masters (1957) in Business Administration and Sociology. His first employment was with Quaker Oats as an account manager in the Sales and Marketing Division where he remained until 1970. He then joined Nestle Corporation as an Area Account Manager, Sales and Marketing. Several years later, he went into business on his own when he launched the LaBeach Food Company and became a pioneer in the importation and distribution of Caribbean food products to major supermarket chains in the New York City tri-state area. In 1985 in collaboration with his brother Lloyd, of 1948 Olympic fame, he launched a larger firm Agro Foods which is now rebranded by his son, Byron LaBeach Jr., as Agro Marketing , who is also a specialty Caribbean and health food distributor. The initiatives now being launched to deliver Jamaican agricultural products to the Eastern Seaboard, which will so greatly benefit the country and its farmers, are possible because of the foundations laid by the pioneering work of Byron LaBeach. As his offspring followed his success on the track, so did they follow his success in the world of business where Monique leveraged her legal education and is now Vice President and General Manager of Cornerstone Concilium of Washington DC, and Julie a Senior Manager of Copyright at Sony Pictures Entertainment in California.
Byron was the quintessential family man, a wonderful husband to his wife Violet with whom he shared 57 years in loving union and who gave him such fine children; Monique, Julie, and Byron. She was the proverbial good woman behind the successful man. Sadly, Violet left this life in June of this year and Byron never seemed to recover from her passing. Sadly, also, of that famous band of brothers, only Samuel remains, and he is here with us this day to pay tribute to his younger sibling.
Byron Truman LaBeach believed in service not to self and family alone, but to country and to community, to Jamaica and to the United States. He was a Vice President of Jamaica Progressive League, a civic organization with a long history on positive input into the affairs of his native island. In the pursuit of his agro-enterprise he thought of it not simply as a business, but as a way to help the development of Jamaica, because the many years he lived here notwithstanding, and his contributions to America notwithstanding, he was, first and last, a Jamaican. His long and faithful service in so many public spheres, athletics, the military, business, country, and community has not gone unrecognized as is clearly indicated by some of the awards he received:
- 1998 Inducted into the Morgan State University Hall of Fame
- 2003 Inducted into the Legends Hall of Fame
- 2003 Inducted into the Victoria Mutual Society Hall of Fame
- 2004 Awarded the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation
- 2021 Presented with the pin of Outstanding Olympic Performance by Christopher Samuda, President of the Jamaica Olympic Association.
Life is a long relay which we all run from the day we are born until eternity. In his life and on the running track, Byron Truman LaBeach, with his lovely wife Violet, ran the relay at the highest level of performance. He passed the baton to Byron Jr., Monique, and Julie, who are still running their outstanding legs, and the ladies have passed their batons, while still running, to their children Julian, Justin, Imani, and Nia, who will then pass theirs to others still unborn. Those medals will shine brightly and add luster to the LaBeach Legacy. What can we say then of the man who has completed his leg, who has now transitioned to his leg celestial and who in all his many activities has touched a million lives? What can we say of this exemplar of manhood, athleticism, fatherhood, and civic contribution? We may say that he led a long, rich, rewarding and fulfilling life, an abundant life, and that no more fitting tribute may be paid him at the last, than the one paid by Marc Antony in tribute to the fallen Brutus in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed up in him that nature might look upon all the world and say, THIS…WAS…A…MAN.”