Monday, July 31, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jesse Beesley, Jr.

Jesse Cox Beesley, Jr. was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on October 23, 1901, according to his passport application and New York National Guard service card. Curiously, his grave marker has the birth day as the 26th.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Beesley was the oldest of two sons born to Jesse, a state feed inspector, and Sarah (Avent). The Beesleys lived in Murfreesboro at 425 East Maine Street, the same address in the 1920 and 1930 censuses.

The 1920 census said Beesley’s father was an electric plant manager. The Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia), June 24, 1980, said Beesley’s “father bought the old Murfreeshoro Daily News-Banner in 1927 and Beesley returned home to become the editor. He later merged the paper with the bi-weekly News-Journal to create the city’s current Daily News-Journal.”

In 1924 Beesley visited Europe. He sailed from Liverpool, England on August 30 and arrived in the port of New York on September 8.

Before Beesley got involved with the News-Banner, he attended the University of Virginia where he was a member of Kappa Alpha and the Glee Club. Beesley graduated from Princeton in 1925.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Beesley drew the panel Betty Blurbs that ran from March 1929 to January 3, 1931. It was handled by the King Features Syndicate. Beesley’s introduction to art was through his uncle, Frank Avent, who was married to artist Mayna Treanor.

A 1931 issue of Pulp and Paper Magazine of Canada reported the merger of two publications: “Jesse C. Beesley, Jr., owner of the News-Banner, holds one-half of the stock in the newly formed company, with Andrew L. Todd and two other owners of the Home Journal holding the rest. Both printing plants will continue in operation.” The new publication was called the Daily News-Journal.

The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), May 23, 1971, said Beesley moved to New York City in 1933.

During World War II, Beesley enlisted with the National Guard on March 11, 1942. He was assigned to Company G of the 51st Regiment. Part of his service was detailed in The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944–1946, pages 244 to 246. Beesley was a “civil affairs historian for the Communications Zone”. He was discharged March 6, 1946.
The Palladium-Times (Oswego, New York), March 4, 1980, said Beesley edited This Week magazine for 17 years. Later he took an editing position at Prentice Hall. Beesley wrote a pamphlet on canasta, and a cookbook, Why Cook? 210 Recipes by One Who Can’t (1955).

Manhattan, New York City directories for 1957 and 1959 listed Beesley at 307 East 44th Street.

The Palladium-Times explained how Beesley became a sculptor known for his depiction of children. 
It was at Prentice Hall that Beesley’s work as a sculptor began. He entered an employee art show that was judged by Theodore Rousseau, art curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Of Beesley’s entry, the bust of a child, Rousseau said, “It is a noble coordination of heart, mind, eye and fingertip.”

With this encouragement, Beesley began to pursue art while working as an editor. He recalls devoting every night and every weekend to seeking success in his new field.
The Palladium-Times said Beesley retired from Prentice Hall at age 70, and “He lives quietly in a modest house with his dog, Tinkerbell. But out back is a shiny black Rolls Royce that he uses to deliver sculptures.”

Beesley’s work was featured in American Artist, September 1971.

The Princeton Alumni Weekly, November 3, 1980, said
But it was after his retirement and return to Murfreesboro that his art really flourished. His specialty was bronze statues of children which achieved international acclaim. Jesse was especially renowned in his own home area. “Jesse Beesley’s Children,” a film centering on his life and art, was produced by Middle Tennessee State Univ. Earlier this year he was designated one of “Ten Outstanding Rutherford Countians 1803–1979,” and nine days before his death he received the 1980 Governor’s Award for the Arts.
Beesley passed away June 23, 1980, in Murfreesboro. He was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery.

—Alex Jay


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