NBA Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley, made headlines in 1993 when recording a commercial in which he said, “I’m not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” I happen to disagree with Charles Barkley. Like it or not, his status as a celebrity makes him a role model to kids who are impressionable.
Fortunately for the lawyers and judges of Pinellas County, there is a clearer example of an appropriate role model. A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times highlights the activities of retired Judge Robert E. Beach. Judge Beach, like Charles Barkley, is an athlete, although not a professional. The story of his life, however, makes for very interesting reading. In his late 30s, when appointed Pinellas/Pasco Circuit Judge in 1968, he was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day and unable to go up a flight of stairs without losing his breath. At age 85, he recently joined a team of six octogenarians to swim a 22-mile relay across the Catalina Channel near San Diego. The retired judge still works five to 10 days a month as a senior judge filling in when needed. Still, he gets up daily at 5:00 a.m. to swim 4000 meters in the pool. It is clear that swimming is Judge Beach’s passion. This is what he has to say about it “It’s prolonged my life, I’m sure of that. Because of swimming, I didn’t just grow old and deteriorate while watching TV.
“It’s gotten me through some personal problems in my life, like my divorce. I’ve made some of my best law decisions right there in the pool . . .”
I respectfully suggest that Judge Beach is a role model not just for lawyers and judges, but for all of us who are striving to get the most out of life. Who would not admire a man who has driven around campsites in the Western U.S. while swimming in lakes and rivers and sleeping in his vintage Porsche?