As Father’s Day approaches this weekend, you might be interested to learn of the little-known connection between UTC and one of television’s most-revered TV Dads. Baby boomers will remember the late 1950’s- early 1960’s TV show, “Leave It To Beaver,” about the Cleaver family: Ward and June Cleaver, and their two sons, Wally and Theodore, aka “The Beaver.” This popular show featured actor Hugh Beaumont as the father, Ward Cleaver. As it turned out, Hugh Beaumont attended school in Chattanooga, including one year at the University of Chattanooga, where he participated in sports. Apparently, he was not involved in acting at all then, but was a talented athlete, participating in sports while attending the Baylor School in Chattanooga, as well as being on the freshmen football and basketball teams at UC, early in Coach Moore’s tenure here. It is said that Beaumont left the team, and the school, after one year when his position on the football team was changed.
Beaumont was born in Kansas in 1909, and his father was involved with business that had the family constantly on the move. According to city directories, the Beaumonts lived in Chattanooga in the late 1920s into the early 1930s. Hugh attended the University of Chattanooga during the 1930-31 school year. Unfortunately, he left very little evidence of his time here- he does not officially appear in the yearbook, and since he played on freshmen, or “B” teams, there is not much mention of his athletic contributions. However, the freshmen basketball team photo below, from the 1931 Moccasin yearbook, shows a player that bears a resemblance to Beaumont. According to his biography on IMBD, Beaumont began appearing in plays and theater performances in 1931 in California, probably soon after leaving UC. His movie career began in 1940 consisting of mostly uncredited, small roles in films. By the 1950s he was getting bigger roles, which no-doubt led to his being cast at the father in the “Leave It To Beaver” series. Ward Cleaver was a fair, honest, and diligent father, doling out practical sense and patient advice (particularly when cautioning son Wally on his friendship with the falsely-sincere, and always trouble, Eddie Haskell). The show ended its run in 1963 and for the rest of the 1960s Beaumont made guest appearances on many TV shows. Also a Methodist minister, Beaumont died unexpectedly in Germany in 1982 while visiting his son there. He is remembered today as one of the quintessential TV dads. So, as Father’s Day approaches, we wish all the “Ward Cleavers” out there a very happy Father’s Day!