Paul Ward Beck
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army
OF SHOOTING BECK
Oklahoma Authorities Say His Statement is Unsatisfactory From A Defense Viewpoint
AGREES TO GO BEFORE JURY
Consents To Repeat His Version At Coroner's Inquiry
Mrs. Day Describes Tragedy
OKLAHOMA CITY, April 5, 1922 - The body of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Ward Beck of the Aviation Service, who was killed early yesterday morning Judge Jean P. Day in the latter's home, will be sent to Washington Saturday for burial in Arlington Cemetery. This was the announcement of Major P. J. Lanphier of Post Field today. Major Lanphier and Captain Albert Marlow of the medical section flew over from Fort Sill and received from Justice of the Peace McWilliams the personal effects of Colonel Beck. These consisted of a diamond ring, a fountain pen, a gold watch, maps and books and $16 in money.
Major Lanphier said that a board of air service officials of which he is chairman has been appointed to represent the service before the Coroner's Jury when it convenes Saturday. He made no reference to rumors that the War Department would make an investigation of the tragedy.
County authorities today picked to pieces bit by bit the signed statement of Judge Day, and some of them found it unsatisfactory from the viewpoint of a defense. Judge Day, seeing his wife in danger of attack, deliberately climbed a stairway to get a revolver instead of plunging into the room at once in his wife's defense.
Judge McWilliams today declared that there was no doubt Day fired a revolver, although the ball had not been located.
Mr. and Mrs. Day Won't Talk
Whether Mrs. Day saw her husband enter the house and climb the stairs also is eliciting inquiry of the Prosecutor. A detective announced tonight that he would be ready to say tomorrow whether there was another person in the room as the time of the tragedy.
The condition of Mrs. Day was improved today. Last night there was fear that she might not recover.
Judge Day, having been released on bond, spent the day at home.
Handsome, tall, straight, gray of temple, deliberate of speech, keen of eye, methodical of movement, the former jurist sits alternately indoors and on the porch and smokes. The gravity of the situation has sunk deep within him. His daughter Doris reached home yesterday from Norman where she is attending the State University. The girl, 20, is talented and aspired to a literary career.
Brothers officers of the dead airman removed all his insignia and decorations. The actions was taken upon orders of Major Lanphier it was said.
Day to Testify At Inquiry
Jean P. Day's story of the killing of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Ward Beck in the fashionable Day home here early Tuesday will be told at the Coroner's inquest Saturday, he announced tonight.
Day, wealthy oil operator and attorney, who is held under bond, declared he would take the first opportunity to relate under oath how he found his wife struggling in the arms of Beck and then struck Beck with a loaded revolver.
"I will tell the truth, the very first chance I get," Day declared in reply to reports that he would decline to testify.
Day said that both he and Mrs. Day would testify at the inquest.
Day has admitted that he struck Beck with a revolver but declared, however, that the explosion of the revolver was accidental. Authorities are also trying to ascertain whether the discharge of the weapon was a contributing cause of death.
Fourth Person In Room?
County Attorney Forrest Hughes said he was endeavoring to check up the possibility that a fourth person might have been in the Day home when Beck was slain.
He added that he was seeking the names of other persons said to have attended a party there preceding the tragedy. He said that unless new evidence was brought out his only recourse would be to file either a murder ot manslaughter charge against Day.
Major Thomas George Lamphier, head of a military board, appointed at Fort Sill, of which Beck was Assistant Commander, to investigate the slaying, came here today in an airplane with Captain Alexander Mileau, Jr. and conducted a preliminary inquiry.
The entire military board will fly here Saturday to attend the Coroner's inquest, he said. When the board's investigation is completed a report will be forwarded to the Adjutant General of the Army at Washington.
The body of Beck will be sent to Washington tomorrow accompanied by an officer. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.
Day, in an interview, declared he had no thought of Killing Beck when he returned to his home and, he alleges, found the army officer struggling with Mrs. Day. His only intent, Day said, was to drive Beck from his home. He thought Beck might be armed, he said, and obtained a revolver.
He said the army officer drew back one hand and then he struck Beck on the head with the revolver. The discharge of the weapon was accidental, he asserted. Officials declared it appeared the impact of the blow was sufficient to cause death.
Declaring he "loved Beck like a brother," Day asserted he acted as almost any "red-blooded American, who finds his confidence violated and his faithful wife insulted and violently attacked."
Mrs. Day tells of tragedy
Mrs. Day today gave her version of the events leading up to the shooting of Beck.
"Beck visited our home on numerous occasions," Mrs. Day said. "One time he called when Mr. Day was away, but it was a very brief visit. However, each time be came, previous to Monday night, he acted as a perfect gentleman in every respect, coming into our home merely as a friend, and one whom we were glad to see because of his geniality. We greatly enjoyed having him inasmuch as he was brilliant and an acceptable addition to any company.
"Early Tuesday morning, however, after Mr. Day left in the automobile to take the other guests home, he seized me by the wrists and threw one arm around me. It was a terrible surprise to me. Nothing like this had ever occurred before and I was dumfounded by his action. As he held me, he made improper proposals to me. I struggled vainly to free myself from his grasp.
"It was while I was thus struggling that Mr. Day opened the door and walked in. He immediately went upstairs. It seems to me that several minutes must have passed before I heard him coming down the stairs again. I remember very distinctly that he was standing on the landing, a pistol in his hand. When I first saw him I was terrified. I remember that I screamed several timed.
"After that I remember nothing more. Weakened by the struggle to free myself from Beck's grasp, I felt myself fainting. The whole room swam before my eyes and passed away. The next thing I remember is indistinct. Some was undressing me and telling me to be quiet - that I needed rest.
"What happened after I saw Mr. Day on the landing there I am unable to tell. I just remember that everything seemed to dim before my eyes and faded out."
DAY IS HIDING TRUTH
Judge Shot Beck In Defense Of Home, Not Of Life, Official Asserts After Inquiry
DOUBTS BECK SAW SLAYER
Declared Any red-blooded Jury Will Acquit Day If He Tell The Truth About The Tragedy
OKLAHOMA CITY, April 7, 1922 - Behind closed doors and acting on order of Judge James I. Phelps of the District Court, investigators from the office of Prosecuting Attorney Forrest Hughes sought today to obtain from four persons an admission of a violent quarrel between Judge Jean C. Day and his wife. The quarrel, W. R. Withington, county evidence attorney, said, was reported to have occurred an hour before Day shot and killed Lieutenant Colonel Paul Ward Beck, commandant at Fort Sill flying field, in the Day home in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Withington declared reports reaching him from "sources that look mighty good" told of Day upbraiding his wife for her "attentions to Beck."
Mr. and Mrs. Paul H. Anderson and L. H. Prichard, guests at the Day home during the hours preceding the tragedy, were the witnessed under examination. Mrs. Prichard was not called before Withington, but will be one of the State's witnesses at the inquest to be held Saturday.
Prosecutor's Version of Tragedy
The County Attorney, in a signed statement to newspaper men today concerning his investigation of the tragedy, said he believed that Day fired in defense of his home and not of his life, and that the x-ray photograph of the dead man's head indicated that the army officer was not looking at Day when the fatal shot was fired. Day had previously stated that when he found Beck in the act of attempting to assault Mrs. Day he struck the officer on the head with a pistol after the latter had made a motion as if to strike him with his fist. Day said also that the revolver was accidentally discharged from the impact of the blow.
The County Attorney's statement said that before any gun was fired or any blow was struck "Day saw something that swept him off his feet." He added that in his opinion Judge Day had not told the whole truth concerning the tragedy.
"I am frank to say," Hughes continued,"that if Judge Day should tell the whole truth, no jury of red-blooded citizens would ever render a verdict against him. I am equally candid to say that I believe that so far Judge Day has not told the whole truth."
The hankerchief which Lieutenant Colonel Beck clutched in his hand when the body was taken over by authorities has a significance in the case which has been overlooked so far, the County Attorney said. He added that he did not believe that there were other persons present at the time Beck was killed except the three principals in the tragedy and that the only purpose in his proposal to bring out statements from other people who attended the party in the Day home which preceded the slaying was to determine the attitude of Day toward Beck.
Cites Two "Vital Questions"
"Previous to the shooting Day and Beck had been the best of friends," Hughes said. "What extraordinary occurrence changed the mental condition of the one toward the other? What caused Mrs. Day after the shooting to moan, 'Oh, my honor!' Those two are the vital questions in the extraordinary tragedy.
"In my opinion there is no doubt that liquors were indulged in at the Day home during the fatal night and morning. However, I do not hink that Judge Day was in any way under the influence of liquor at the time the shot was fired."
Hughes states that one thing absolutely certain in his mind was that the gun was discharged "while immediately adjacent to the head of Paul Beck."
"Whether or not the deceased was short from the front or back," added the County Attorney, "is one of the greatest questions involved in this case. The position of the lead in the head of Paul Beck, as shown in the x-ray photograph, would tend to indicate that Beck was not looking at Judge Day at the time of the firing of the fatal shot.
"Judge Day asserts he fired in self defense. In my judgment if the shot was fired in defense, it was in defense of home, and not of life."
Hughes was open in his statement that he did not expect "the Coroner's jury to do anything."
"But I am going to be guided by the law. I will reserve the right to file any charges that the law and the facts warrant," he said.
Judge Day Make A Reply
"My attorneys say I can't talk," said Judge Day this afternoon. But when the lawyer in him rebelled against what he termed "uncalled for, unfair, inexcusable stories circulated by newspapers," he threw off the restraint of professionalism and told this story:
"It is not true that I saw my wife in distress as I drove up the driveway, and that I deliberately took my car to the garage and then came back to her rescue. I did not see into the house through the window until the car was put away and I stepped upon the porch. The sight that met my eyes led me through the front door of my living room as a madman. When I entered, Beck was gone. I hesitated but a half second. My wife was no longer in danger. I could comfort her later. My duty was to settle with her attempted assaulter.
"I sensed that ht had gone into the dining room. I hastened upstairs for my revolver. Beck was a powerful man, as perfect a physical specimen as any one I ever saw. I cam down a rear stairway leading into the dining room, revolver in hand. By that time, I resolved to drive him from my home. I did not mean to kill him. As I crossed the dining room in the semi darkness, I saw his figure behind a portier that had been drawn aside until enough was left at the side of the dining room entrance to hide the form of a man.
"You get our of my house, you damnable cur,' I commanded. Beck stepped our into the light that shown from the living room, boldly and with clenched fists. I don't think he made a step toward me, but he put himself in the attitude to strike me, for I was steadily approaching him. My revolver was in my right hand at my side. I raised it and struck with all my might. At the same instant Beck bent toward me in a crouching posture. My recollection is that I hit him on the side and rear of the head. He staggered backward, regained himself, staggered again, again stood up and then fell upon the floor.
Judge Day then removed the rug and pointed to stains upon the floor.
"there was the pool of blood," he said. "It is a deliberate lie that blood was scattered over the room and particles of skull were found on the piano fifteen feet away. It is a lie, also, that the portiers have been moved to hide a mystery. The portiers are just as they were. It is a damnable lie, the lie of sensation mongers, of character assassins, that I passed my wife and Beck struggling on the couch to deliberately walk upstairs to protect myself. So help me God, I have told the truth about this."
Lieutenant Paul Ward Beck, Jr. of the ordnance
branch of the army at Watertown, Massachusetts, arrived at Fort Sill today,
according to word received here. He will attend the inquest over the body
of his father. Lieutenant Beck and other members of the family and
close friends will accompany the body to Washington for burial in Arlington
WASHINGTON, April 12, 1922 - Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Beck of the Army Air Service, shot and killed recently by Jean Day in his home at Oklahoma City, was buried today in the family lot in Arlington National Cemetery with military ceremonies including the firing of a salute over the grave and the sounding of taps. Three airplanes manoeuvered over the cemetery during the services. At the request of the family there was no funeral procession.
The ashes of Colonel Beck's wife, who died in August, were buried with the body in an urn.
DAY CHARGES BLACKMAIL
Has Man Arrested For Letter To Mrs. Day In Beck Case
OKLAHOMA CITY, April 19, 1922 - An alleged plot to blackmail Mrs. Jean P. Day, wife of Jean P. Day, who was recently exonerated of the slaying of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Ward Beck, army aviator, was revealed tonight with the announcement that a man giving his name as Ed Reed had been arrested at Edna, Oklahoma.
Day said tonight that a letter was received last Wednesday by Mrs. Day from a man who demanded $2,000 to keep silent as to what he saw through the window of the Day home on April 4, the morning Beck was slain. Day said the letter was signed "G. Daer," and it declared, he added, that if the money was sent to Edna, in a package labeled merchandise, the writer would forget what he had seen. A package was sent addressed to Daer, and was claimed last night by Reed who asked for Daer's mail.
INVESTIGATES BECK KILLING
Army Board Hears Mrs. Day, Whose Husband Shot The Officer
OKLAHOMA CITY, June 6, 1922 - Mrs. Jean Day today related to an army investigating board her story of an alleged attack on her by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Ward Beck, commanding officer at Post Aviation Field, which resulted in Beck's death at the hands of her husband early in April. The board went to the Day home this afternoon. to hear Mrs. Day
At the morning session of the board, Mrs. Day appeared with her private attorney. Both hearings were private and neither Mrs. Day nor the board members would comment. However, it was understood that Mrs. Day's attorney introduced several letters concerning alleged relations of Beck with women at other army posts where he had been stationed.
A Coroner's jury exonerated Day shortly after
Commissioned a Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army 5th Infantry, 1 September 1899. Promoted to First Lieutenant, 21 March 1901. He graduated from the Infantry School, the Cavalry School 1905, and graduated from the Signal Corps School in 1906. On 4 February 1907 he was assigned to Signal Corps as a First Lieutenant. On 7 January 1911 he was selected to attend the first aviation school in San Diego, California, taught by pioneer aviator Glenn Curtiss. He was promoted to Captain on 11 March 1911.
In January 1910 Beck conducted the first bombing experiment. On 21 January 1911 Lieutenant Beck went up in an aircraft with a wireless telegraph set (Type A-4) which he designed and placed on his lap (weight 29 pounds), flew to an altitude of 500 feet and conducted the first radio telegraph transmission from an aircraft and was received over 40 miles away.
Captain Paul Beck qualified as a Military Aviator on 12 July 1912 (third of 25 pilots so qualified, the first being First Lieutenant H.H. (Hap) Arnold) Later, Captain Beck flew a test air mail flight from Baltimore to Washington D.C. with Postmaster General Wicksham as a passenger.
Captain Beck was recalled to the Infantry from the Signal Corps Air Service and promoted to Major (temporary) on 5 August 1917. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (temporary) on 5 August 1918. On 28 August 1919 he was appointed Major (permanent). He transferred to the Army Air Service, and in January was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned as Commanding Officer of the Henry Post Airfield at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Colonel Paul W. Beck, while visiting Oklahoma
City was shot and killed on 4 April 1922. NOTE: Paul Beck was the only
officer/pilot to profess that the Signal Corps Air Service should be formed
into its own corps service during the early years of Army Aviation. This
vision came true with the formation of the U.S. Army Air Corps 1926.
Tennessee Journal and Tribune
Knoxville, Tennessee: April, 1910,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 3-31-04
These men have received orders from the war department at Washington to proceed to the manoever division at San Antonio to participate in "aviation work." Two aviation camps will be established at the manoever division - one for the Curtiss machine and the other for the Wright aeroplane.
portraits of Lieutenants Paul W. Beck, George M. Kelly, and John C. Walker,
The U.S. Army Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps was created 1 August 1907.
Army airplanes were considered experimental
from 1909 to 1914. In March of 1912 the Secretary of War established regulations
providing for physical fitness examination and flight testing to qualify
"pilots" for rating as Military Aviators. Upon meeting the Qualifications,
a 'certificate' was awarded to those aviators, stating they were "rated"
as Military Aviator, however this certificate was not authorized until
While it is true that Beck, together with Phillip Paulham, conducted a rudimentary bomb dropping test demonstration during the 1910 Los Angeles Air Meet, Beck was not involved in any bomb dropping experiments with Myron Crissy during the 1911 air meet at Tanforan, near San Francisco, nor was he involved in any bomb dropping experiments after his single demonstration at the 1910 Los Angeles Air Meet.
During the August 1913 Congressional Hearings
on HR5304, Beck told the Congressional Committee that he and Crissy had
collaborated on a bomb dropping device, but Crissy hotly denied that he
and Beck had worked together at any time. The aviation journals and newspapers
that covered the 1911 made no mention of any such collaboration, reporting
only that Crissy had dropped "live bombs of his own design," and Paul Beck
made the first airborne radio transmission.
I am working on a book about the first attempt to establish Army aviation as a semiautonomous part of the Line, 1912-1915. That first attempt, made in 1912-1913, was launched and, for a short time, orchestrated by Paul Beck. My interest in him stems from his role in that historical event.
Beck was a complicated and controversial figure during his initial, 15-month, aviation career, January 1911-May 1912. He was either a farsighted prophet or a self-aggrandizing manipulator, and was probably a little bit of both. His behind the scenes politicking in 1912-1913 earned him the wrath of two CSOs, Allen and Scriven, as well two Chiefs of the Signal Corps Aviation Section, Russell and Reber. He created so many powerful enemies in the Signal Corps that his transfer back to the infantry under the so-called Manchu Law [Art. IV, Par. 40, AR 1910] effectively ended his aviation career until he returned to aviation on 9 August 1920.
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
via email from Dwight R. Messimer, 12-11-04
I'm a retired college professor currently working on a book about Army aviation, 1908-1917. I'm interested in the separation effort that occurred from April 1912 to October 1915. As you know, Captain Paul Beck led the charge to separate Army aviation from the Signal Corps in 1912-1913. Though he was eliminated from the scene in 1913, I need more detailed biographical information on him, particularly how he was killed in Oklahoma City. Can you provide me with the details of his death?
I have ample material dealing with his separation
campaign, but my information on Beck is sketchy and sometimes confusing.
One point that confuses me is the arm to which he was actually assigned
from 1907-1912. The information I have is that he was on detached duty
from the infantry to the Signal Corps for assignment at Benecia Barracks,
California. I don't know exactly when that assignment was made, but it
had to have been sometime before 1 May 1908. It was during his tour at
Benecia that he attended the 1910 Los Angeles Air Meet, and the 1911 Tanforan
[San Francisco] Air Meet as he was en route to the Curtiss school at North
Island [San Diego]. According to Signal Corps records in Records Group
111 in the National Archives, he was returned to the infantry on 1 May
1912 under the so-called Manchu Law which limited detached duty from the
line to four years in six. Under the existing Army Regulation [Article
VI, Para. 39 and 40, AR1910], had he been a Signal Corps officer, he would
have been exempt from the Manchu law. Yet Chandler, Lahm, and Foulois thought
he was a Signal Corps officer. The fact is however, that he returned to
the infantry in 1912 and remained there until after WWI.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE SHOOTING:
Supreme Court Judge Jean P. Day and his wife Audrey were friends with Paul Beck. The three had dinner on Monday evening at Skirvin, an elegant restaurant in Oklahoma City. Following the dinner, the Days invited a half dozen people to their home at 411 N. 19th Street for an impromptu party.
Judge Day's account:
In the early morning hours of 4 April, Judge Day left to drive some of his guests home despite the fact that they lived less than a block away, leaving Beck alone with Audrey Day.
The Judge returned forty minutes later, and looking through the front window into the living room, saw Beck assaulting his wife. [At the Coroner's Inquest, Judge Day described the scene as "they were embracing."
Beck jumped to his feet as the Judge entered the living room.
Without saying a word, Judge crossed the room to the stairway, and went up. He returned to the landing facing the living room with a pistol in his hand. Judge Day paused on the landing, saw no sign of Beck, and went into the kitchen to make a circuit of the lower floor. He was walking through the breakfast nook and into the dining room when he saw the portieres decorating the entrance to drawing room bunched, apparently hiding a man's figure.
When Day was four feet away, Beck stepped out. Day saw Beck draw back his right arm as though to strike, and Day stepped in and brought the gun down onto Beck's head. Judge Day claimed that he and Beck were were facing each other when he struck Beck on the head with the pistol barrel, and the gun discharged
DAY'S STORY QUESTIONED
Forrest Hughes, Oklahoma County Attorney didn't believe Judge Jean P. Day's story and Sheriff Ben Dancy said that Beck was shot in the back of the head. County Attorney Hughes, who was considering filing a murder charge against Judge Day, ordered a Coroner's Inquest. The issue was Judge Day's claim that he was facing Beck when the gun fired. The Judge's claim was shown to be false by the coroner's drawing which showed that the bullet entered Beck's head at the rear of the skull on the right side, and traveled directly into the middle of the brain. A fragment broke off and impacted the inside of the skull on the left side near the left eye, fracturing the skull at that point.
THE CORONER'S VERDICT
Despite the evidence, the Coroner's Jury acquitted Judge Day, ruling that the Judge killed Beck in the course of protecting his home and his wife's honor. The Jury report noted that the slaying climaxed a party at the end of which Judge Day took his guests home, leaving Beck alone with Mrs. Day. When the Judge returned forty minutes later he found his wife in Beck's embrace. Day testified that he intended to strike Beck with the pistol, but the pistol discharged during the struggle. Day and his first wife divorced soon after the slaying.
THE ARMY BOARD
A board of Army officers ruled that Beck "died
in the line of duty." The Board consisted of:
The Army Board raised several questions, among which were:
Why was Judge Day so insistent on driving guests home who lived less than a block away?
If Judge Day intended only to strike Beck, why did he get his pistol?
If Judge Day intended to use the pistol to strike Beck, why did he strike him with the barrel and not with the butt?
In their report to War Department the Army Board included a letter that a woman who attended the party had written to Paul W. Beck, Jr. According to the letter, alcohol played a larger role during the party than was reported at the Coroner's Inquest, but, she wrote, "Lieutenant Colonel Beck was sober throughout the evening." You can draw your own account of what actually took place, but the outcome will be the same--Judge Jean P. Day murdered Paul Beck in the early morning hours of 4 April 1922 in Oklahoma City.
Contributed by Dwight R. Messimer, 3-13-05
MRS. RUTH EVERETT BECK
Ruth Everett Beck was born in Lyons, Neb., and is the daughter of Benaiah Weathern Everett and Elise Grout Everett. As a child she attened the public schools in Lyons, after which she took a course in the University of Nebraska, specializing in English. She attended the Fremont Normal School and was graduated in the class of 1893.
Her husband is Capt. Paul Ward Beck, military aviator for the U. S. A. Army, stationed at Fort McPherson, Georgia. They have one son, Paul Ward Beck, Jr.
Mrs. Beck is the author of "The Heart of a Filipino," "The Trail," and a number of stories of life of an American Indians. She has made exhustive study of the history of the Indians, and of their racial characteristics and of their tendencies, and is an authority on some phases of Indian life.
Her American Ancestory dates back to Colonial
and Revolutionary days and she is a member of the Daughters of the American
Revolution. She is much interested in Woman Suffrage and in political belief
is a Democrat. She is a member of the League of American Pen Women and
all of her writings have a very pleasing style and in some of her stories
she is preserving Indian legends and stories which are of particular interest
BECK, RUTH EVELYN EVERETT W/O PAUL WARD