Like most folks of my generation, our first exposure to Hugh Beaumont was when we watched him as America’s favorite dad on the “Leave It To Beaver” show. The show had gone into rerun syndication by the time I was introduced to it. It was hard not to like Ward Cleaver, the wisdom spouting, patient father of the rambunctious little boy, Beaver.
Hugh Beaumont was born near Lawrence, Kansas on February 16, 1909. His father was a traveling salesman, so the family lived in many towns during Hugh’s childhood. He graduated from Baylor School and then studied at the University of Chattanooga of Chattanooga, Tennessee, he was also a member of the football squad there. Beaumont went on to graduate from the University of Southern California with a Master of Theology degree in 1946. He was licensed as a minister of the United Methodist Church.
While still a student, Beaumont landed a brief gig during World War Two in Hollywood. His passing resemblance to Lloyd Nolan gave rise to his part as the replacement leading character, Michael Shayne, in the low-budget matinee detective movies.
Right after the war, Beaumont played character roles. His more noteable parts included appearances in the 1946 film “The Blue Dahlia and 1947’s “The Guilt of Janet Ames”. The 1948 movie, “Money Madness” features Beaumont playing a deceitful, murderous villain.
In 1955, Beaumont landed the role, for which he is most famous. The premiere of “Leave It To Beaver” in the fall of 1957 forever changed his image and made him a household name. His role as the head of the Cleaver household was more than an act. Beaumont actually wrote and directed many of the episodes. That’s one way he was able to inject many of his pithy witticisms into the scripts.
Surprisingly, he was less than pleased with his television role. He thought that he was typecast and that it would be difficult to overcome the image that American viewers had of him. In 2004, Ward Cleaver was ranked as the 28th best TV Dad of All Time.
Following the end of production of “Leave It To Beaver”, Beaumont showed up as guest star in “Petticoat Junction”, “The Virginian”, “Mannix”, and “Wagon Train”. Sometimes Beaumont felt conflicted between his acting career and his idealism as a minister. He felt that if push came to shove, he would have to give up his television career.
He did eventually retire from acting in the late 1960s. He put his energy into growing Christmas trees near Grand Rapids, Minnesota. In 1972, Beaumont suffered a dibilitating stroke that shadowed his later years with disabilities. While visiting his son in Munich, Germany, Beaumont suffered a heart attack and died on May 14, 1982. His cremains were scattered on the family property near Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this gem from Hugh Beaumont: “When you make a mistake, don’t look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind, and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.”