The following tribute to Frank Beckmann is based on a chapter in the book, In Defense of Capitalism (Eleventh Edition, Northwood University Press) by Dr. Kent D. MacDonald and Dr. Timothy G. Nash.
On Saturday, February 12, 2022, at the age of 72, legendary WJR radio broadcaster Frank Beckmann, with his loving wife and family by his side, entered the gates of heaven and joined his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in eternal life.
To the dismay of millions of listeners, Frank retired from WJR on March 26, 2021, as he desired to spend more time with his loving family and close friends. Frank’s versatile career covered all four Detroit professional sports teams (Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons). He served as the voice of the University of Michigan football team (succeeding the great Bob Ufer in 1981 as play-by-play announcer – a job Frank excelled at for 33 seasons), reported on the horrors of 9/11, the bankruptcy, and rebirth of the city of Detroit and thirteen presidential elections.
Born November 3, 1949, in Kiel, West Germany, Frank grew up and spent his early high school years attending Osborne High School in northeast Detroit. Later he transferred to Warren Cousino (Beckmann’s family moved to Warren so Frank could attend a high school with a student-run radio station). Beckmann thrived as a student and a broadcaster at Cousino, realizing that his dream of becoming a Detroit Lions broadcaster could come to fruition.
After studying broadcast journalism for two years at Macomb Community College, Frank began his professional career in 1969 at the ripe old age of 20. Beckmann attributes much of his success to his wife, Karen, his family, WJR leadership, his broadcast team, and the mentoring from renowned WJR broadcaster J.P. McCarthy. In his passionate pursuit of excellence, Frank Beckmann, a kind soul with a wisdom one gains only from vast experiences, achieved national stature as a radio broadcaster.
He had an impeccable work ethic, a notable radio voice, a curiosity for ideas and facts, and always demanded the truth. Beckmann’s storied career was also made possible by his love for people, his audience, the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the United States of America.
“Frank Beckmann became a radio legend because he does everything right…at full throttle,” Steve Finateri, Vice President and Market Manager, Cumulus Detroit, noted at Frank’s retirement. As a mid-day talk show personality, Frank prided himself in having the support of “the best broadcast team,” providing “the best research” and the “best-informed audience.” He was always dedicated to delivering a quality, timely, and up-to-date show. Frank is iconic because his answers were always consistent, expressing his love for America and his belief in freedom, free enterprise, and the American Dream. His chosen daily topics usually drove home his fundamental premise on life, his innate optimism that no matter how difficult or trying things were, if you worked hard enough, the best was yet to come with courage and conviction.
Over his 48 year career, Frank interviewed a who’s who of guests, including U.S. President Donald Trump; U.S. Vice President Mike Pence; rock and roll legend Ted Nugent; American sniper Rob O’Neill; former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice; former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm; U.S. astronaut Jerry Linenger; legendary Michigan football coach, Bo Schembechler; energy co-generation entrepreneur and owner of the Houston Texans football team, Bob McNair; acclaimed broadcaster Ernie Harwell; Red Wings Hall of Famer, Steve Yzerman; and, Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer, Al Kaline, to name a few.
In 2011, Beckmann seriously considered a run for the U.S. Senate against then-incumbent Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. He decided not to move forward, as he would have needed to register as a republican and abandon his broadcasting positions.
Throughout Frank’s esteemed career, he helped raise tens of millions of dollars for Michigan-based charities, including the March of Dimes, hosting a golf tournament for the past 37 years; The Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund; Dutton Farm, which serves those with Down Syndrome; The Autism Alliance of Michigan; and, numerous other non-profits whose organizations are far better off because of Frank’s kindness, time and generosity.
Frank’s peers and the broadcasting industry recognized him numerous times for the level of excellence he brought to his job daily:
“Best Mid-day Personality” (numerous times by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters).
Member Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (2008).
Member Michigan Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Member VIP Mentoring Coaches Challenge Hall of Fame.
“Top Michigan Sportscaster” (multiple times).
2014 Recipient of the Chris Schenkel Award by the National Football Foundation, which included membership in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Honorary Doctor of Laws from Northwood University (May 2012) for exemplary lifetime achievement for his career and philanthropic accomplishments.
At Frank’s retirement, Beckmann Show Executive Producer Chris Renwick said, “It has been an honor to have had a front-row seat for the last four years of Frank’s 48-year hall of fame career.”
In the opinion of those who knew and loved Frank best, his life was the epitome of the American Dream.
At the time of his retirement, he said, “I will be forever grateful to WJR for helping all of my boyhood dreams come true. As a youngster growing up on Detroit’s east side, I always imagined sitting behind a microphone announcing Lions and Tigers games. It was surreal for me to have been able to do that, along with experiencing other great opportunities this radio giant known as WJR provided me. I only hope I’ve met their expectations, and I thank every person I have worked for or with at WJR. It’s been an amazing ride, and while I look forward to the upcoming additional golf time, I know I will deeply miss the very best business professionals I have worked for these past 48 years. This includes my co-workers and our clients, many of whom have become friends, and especially our loyal and dedicated audience, who often gave me wise advice and support while making it among the most listened-to shows in the Midwest. I look forward to spending more time with my beautiful wife Karen, son Jon, and daughter Tori, and our three wonderful grandchildren, Pierson, 4, Sawyer and Brooks, 2, my golf clubs, an occasional cigar, and a glass of scotch.”
Less than eleven months after Frank uttered those upbeat words at retirement, describing a bright future and a life well-lived, Frank lost his life to a sudden, unexpected, and tragic battle with a vicious form of Vascular Dementia.
Frank’s loving wife Karen, the family he adored, and many close friends were there for him through this incredibly difficult time, providing support, attention, and love.
When Frank’s family, friends, and devoted listeners think of him, and they will often; it is not how he died they will remember, rather how he lived, and oh how he did live!
In honor of Frank’s life well lived, let’s offer a toast and a fond farewell to a person who regularly challenged us to think and debate great issues, such as “Why not a bigger and better: Detroit? Michigan? America? World?”
Frank Beckmann will be missed. That is a certainty. However, look to the sky and listen attentively when you miss him most. You might be able to hear Frank broadcasting in heaven from a station with a tower unimaginably higher than that of his beloved WJR. Perhaps he’ll be interviewing many great guests he never had enough time to interview while still challenging his listeners to carry on – for a better Detroit, Michigan, and these United States of America…and dare we say heaven.
A visitation-only tribute to Frank’s life will be held on Thursday, February 17, 2022, from 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. at Five Points Community Church, 3411 E. Walton Road, Auburn Hills, MI 48326, and 248-373-1381.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you consider making a gift in Frank’s honor to The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Midland, Michigan.
The family would like to thank his caregivers who provided wonderful attention and love for Frank during the last few months of his life.