Richard Capel Beckett of West Point, one of the most distinguished lawyers of Mississippi, was born in Pickens County, Alabama, Aug. 24, 1845, and entered the Confederate service April 14, 1862, as a private soldier in Company I of the Forty-first Mississippi infantry, Col. W. F. Tucker commanding. The regiment was organized at Tupelo, and first encountered the enemy in the trenches about Corinth during the siege, and at the battle of Farmington. Marching into Kentucky, it participated in the battle of Perryville, Oct. 8, 1862, and then fell back into east Tennessee. On the way to middle Tennessee, previous to the battle of Murfreesboro, Mr. Beckett was taken sick at Bridgeport, and was sent to the hospital at Dalton, Georgia, where, on account of his youth and physical disability, he was honorably discharged. He returned home in December, and afterward attended the Southern university of Alabama during one session.
In July, 1863, he re-enlisted, becoming a member of Captain Ryan's company of cavalry, afterward Company B of the Sixteenth Confederate cavalry, known as Armistead's regiment, commanded by Col. Charles G. Armistead, and after the latter was wounded, by Lt.-Col. P. B. Spence. He was appointed second sergeant but served as orderly-sergeant until the close of the war. He was with his command under General Pillow in the fight at Lafayette, Georgia, and at Rome, under General Wheeler, where he received a flesh wound in the neck. When General Hood marched into Tennessee he served in front of Sherman's army, and afterward his command went to Mobile with General Liddell's troops, took part in the successful encounter with the enemy at Pine Barren, and fought in the works at Blakely in April, 1865, but made their escape across the river before the surrender of that post. Then retreating with General Taylor's forces, he was surrendered with his company at State Line Station. Thence he marched to Gainesville, Alabama, and was paroled in May, 1865.
Mr. Beckett was admitted to the practice of law at Aberdeen in 1868, and in 1871 made his home at West Point. In the course of his practice he has been associated with Capt. R. E. Houston, Col. C. R. Barteau, Hon. F. G. Barry, and Judge F. A. Critz, as partners. He is a ripe scholar and is admitted to be one of the most profound lawyers of the South. In courts of every grade, from the United States supreme court down, he has appeared with the dignity of a gentleman and the powerful influence of a thoroughly equipped advocate. Some of the most notable causes in which he has been successful as counsel are suits brought by the State of Mississippi to recover back taxes from various corporations, resulting in judgments for over $1,500,000.
Mr. Beckett was married in 1874 to Miss Blanche Tucker, of Columbus, Mississippi, who died in 1889, leaving five children; in 1890 he married Miss Mary Bell, of West Point, who died in 1891, and in 1893 he was married to Miss Mary Randle of Aberdeen. The father of Mr. Beckett was Dr. J. M. Beckett, a native of South Carolina, of Irish parentage, who practiced medicine at Columbia, South Carolina, married Willie Capel, a daughter of a Methodist minister at Montgomery, Alabama, and afterward a planter in Pickens county, Alabama, moving to Aberdeen, Mississippi, in 1853. Three of his sons, beside Richard C., were in the Confederate service: Newton J., captain of Company I, Forty-first Mississippi infantry, who died just after the battle of Murfreesboro; James, who served throughout the war as a corporal in the Forty-first regiment, and died in 1871, and Frank, a boy soldier with the State troops of Mississippi, who was a lawyer at Vernon, Texas, but died in the spring of 1906.
The paternal ancestors of the subject of this review were Scotch-Irish and came from Country Antrim, Ireland, previous to the Revolutionary war. The grandfather, James Beckett, attempted to return to Ireland and was lost in a storm. The Becketts are Presbyterians. The maternal ancestors of R. C. Beckett were French Huguenots, who came from France and settled at Baltimore before the Revolution. The maternal grandfather, Britton Capel, was a Methodist minister, and went from Baltimore to Montgomery, Alabama, where he died. His son, Jabez Capel, was a captain in the Mexican war and was shot through the head at Chapultepec, but not killed. He afterward became an extensive land owner in Texas, and was also sheriff there for many years.