The first black Salvationists in the West

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Captain and Mrs. Alexander Beck

by Frances Dingman – 

Captain and Mrs. Alexander Beck, with daughter Pearl. Photo courtesy TSA National Archives

Alexander Beck was born in Tennessee, the son of slaves who were freed a few years later. As a boy he had a reputation for good humor and his musical talent.

He had been considered a moral young man, but after moving to Kansas he took a downward track, beginning to drink and gamble. According to Mrs. Beck, he “just sobered up long enough to get a wife.”

Beck continued in his wild ways as they started for the West, but it was not until his wife became a Salvationist that he thought of being saved. They became soldiers at Los Angeles No. 1; in 1893 he and his wife and daughter were appointed as specials to visit the corps in California. They traveled sometimes alone and later with a group called the Plantation Jubilee Singers.

Mrs. Beck had been raised a Christian, joining first the Methodists and then a Holiness Band in Los Angeles, before the Salvationists came to town. Their daughter Pearl, 13 at the time, became a Salvationist one week after her father, and wore full Army uniform. She contributed her soprano to the melodies and jubilee songs for which the Becks were famous.

When Staff Captain William McIntyre was planning to invade the Southwest, appearances by the Becks played a large part in raising the $300 needed for the venture.

The Becks, who saw hundreds saved at the penitent form, were a blessing to the Southern California District.

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