Railroads And Rulebooks: The Hank Beatty Story

"Good judgment on any subject is not a gift. It is the power of logical reasoning, based on knowledge and observation. It is born only of long study and must be exercised with care and sportsmanship." - Hank Beatty

"It has been fun to look back, but it is much more productive to look ahead." - Hank Beatty

Born June 11, 1900 in Cleveland, Ohio, Henry 'Hank' McIntosh Beatty was the son of Robert and Alexandrine (McIntosh) Beatty. He grew up on Devonshire Drive in Cleveland Heights and his father was a railroad worker with the Cleveland and Eastern Traction Company.

Hank's father got him a job with as a timekeeper when he was a teenager. At the age of eighteen, he graduated from Asheville School in North Carolina and was drafted for the first World War but luckily wasn't sent overseas to Europe. Instead, he studied at Cornell University, where he got a degree in electrical engineering. He became the Vice-President of a limestone and building materials company and enjoyed photography, game fishing and playing 'archery' golf until his marriage to Elizabeth Coates in October 1923. It wasn't until 1937 - at the age of thirty seven - that he first laced up a pair of skates and fell in love with figure skating when his children signed up for lessons at the Cleveland Skating Club.

Though Hank's own skating prowess was questionable, he became a trustee of the Cleveland Skating Club and served as its Vice-President. He stepped up to the plate as an organizer when Cleveland hosted the U.S. Championships for the first time in 1940. Quickly catching the attention of the powers that be in U.S. figure skating at the time for his organizational skills, he became a member of the USFSA executive later that year. In 1946, he was elected as the USFSA's ninth President, serving in that role for three years and playing an integral part in fostering growth in the organization during the post-War years. In 1949, he returned to his role as the chairperson of the USFSA's Competitions Committee and was appointed as an International Referee.

Hank also served as chair of the U.S. Olympic Games (Selection) Committee for every Olympic Games from 1948 to 1964 and as either the Chief or Assistant Referee at sixteen U.S. Championships, eight World Championships and three North American Championships, as well as the 1964 Winter Olympic Games. He played an important role in bringing the 1957 World Championships to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. This event marked the first time that the United States had hosted the Championships since 1930. He acted as General Chairman of the 1959, 1965, 1969 and 1975 World Championships... all held at The Broadmoor and all largely successful. Incidentally, in early 1960 Hank had moved to Colorado Springs and called the Broadmoor his home club. A skaters residence there was named Henry M. Beatty Hall in his honour.

In 1958, Hank organized an exhibition tour of American skaters in Japan, which fostered growth and education in that country and goodwill between the two skating associations. At the 1961 U.S. Championships, he held black tie cocktail parties for the judges every night before dinner in his hotel suite. When judge Walter Powell, his friend and peer, was killed in the Sabena Crash, he stepped in as an ISU Representative and served in that capacity until 1967. Arguably, Hank's most important contributions to American figure skating were his development and editorship of the USFSA's Competitions Manual and work in editing Heaton Ridgway Robertson's book "Evaluation Of Errors In Figures". Both texts, in their own ways, had a profound impact on education and development in his country.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Recalling his early days of judging and refereeing events in an article that appeared in "Skating" magazine in 1971, Hank emphasized, "Don't get the idea that the early skaters couldn't skate. Their figures were equal to or better than those skaters today. Their free skating was very good: good, that is, within the limitations of the then known moves. I once asked a skater who had competed with the famous Sonja [Henie], whether she could have free skated with the present crop. She replied, 'That is a difficult question to answer. In the first place. big jumps like the Axel were considered unladylike, and secondly, with the longer skirts and heavier clothing we wore, jumping was quite difficult. But I believe that were Sonja competing today, she could hold her own with anyone.'... There were many unusual happenings in those days. In one competition, the free skating was held in a curling rink where the roof was supported by columns that skaters had to dodge during their programs. Another time, the ice had been painted for decoration and some of the chemical came up through the next layer of ice making it virtually impossible to perform a paragraph figure. An embarrassing moment occurred when a champion showed up with orchestration for sixteen pieces, and the host club had planned on a piano and drums, or a record player... These and countless other problems were overcome somehow, and figure skating continued and developed into the great sport that it is today."

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Sadly, Hank passed away in Cleveland on August 11, 1972 at the age of seventy two, just months after serving as the Assistant Referee of the pairs competition at that year's World Championships in Calgary, Alberta. He was elected posthumously to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1977 and is remembered fondly by a nickname which well describes the many contributions he made to American figure skating: 'Mr. USFSA'. After his death, H. Hendall Kelly recalled in "Skating" magazine, "Henry was gifted with keen intelligence, a forceful personality and great executive ability. He was deeply interested in figure skating and the Association and turned his talents wholeheartedly towards its activities and progress. His influence and contributions to the sport can never be surpassed in extent and value."

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.