Drs. Jean and Al Beasley, longtime pediatricians in Westport, dedicated their lives to inquiry, education and family. They moved to Westport in 1953 in order to provide a solid upbringing and excellent education for their children and to establish a pediatrics practice together. The family was only a handful of Black families to reside in Westport for many years. Dr. Al often referred to Westport as a “magical” town, whose population mostly opened their arms to them and made them feel special.
The future doctors met in high school and married during their college years (he graduated from Columbia College and she from Hunter College). Both later graduated from the NYU School of Medicine.
Dr. Jean was the epitome of pioneering feminism—she was one of four women in the NYU Medical School class of 1948 and spent her life balancing her medical career with the needs of her children, Scott and Jean. In addition to her private pediatric practice, she served on the staffs of Norwalk Hospital Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she also taught. Her brilliant life was cut short when she died of a spinal sarcoma in 1973. Her loss at the age of 51 was tragic not only for her family but also for the community that she served and loved.
Dr. Al was the grandson of a Harvard-educated Boston attorney who helped found the Boston Chapter of the NAACP; his father was a Harvard alumnus and his mother was a Radcliffe graduate. During the mid-1920s—the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance—Dr. Al’s father moved his family to New York, where he opened a practice. Dr. Al attended the Walden School (receiving what he later called “a good, liberal education”). He served twice in the Armed Forces: two years in the Army as a reservist while in college, then four more in the Air Force during the Korean War, as the base pediatrician in Houston, Texas. Because of the overt prejudice he experienced in Houston, Dr. Jean stayed in New York to complete her pediatric residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
Following Dr. Jean’s death, Dr. Al co-founded Willows Pediatric Group. He also served on the staff of Norwalk Hospital and was an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine. He served in leadership roles with the United Way, A Better Chance, and Earthplace, among other notable organizations. Dr. Al was a dedicated civil rights activist until his death in 2020 at the age of 98.
The Beasleys’ legacy will inspire Westport’s children to succeed in life for generations to come.