Otto Beatty, Jr., a former Democratic Ohio state representative and patriarch of a Columbus political powerhouse family has died, his wife and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty announced Friday. He was 81.
“It is with profound sadness that my family and I share of the passing of our beloved Otto Beatty, Jr., Esq.,” Joyce Beatty said in a tweet. “A devoted father, grandfather, amazing husband and confidante, friend to many, and dedicated leader in the community. Otto will be forever missed but his legacy will live on eternally. Our family appreciates everyone’s thoughts and prayers and asks for privacy during this extremely difficult time.”
Otto Beatty was elected to the legislative seat in 1980 and held it for 18 years. When he resigned to focus on his business interests, Joyce Beatty was appointed and then held the seat through 2008. Their daughter, Laurel Beatty Blunt, is a judge on the 10th District Court of Appeals and their son Otto Beatty III is a practicing attorney.
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Civic activism ran in the Beatty family even before Otto Beatty’s election to the Statehouse.
When Beatty’s parents and grandmother arrived in Columbus from Kansas in 1938, they instantly became involved in the civil-rights movement “because back in those times it was absolutely necessary,” he said in a 2013 interview with the Columbus Dispatch. “There was pure segregation.”
Beatty said his grandmother, Mayme Moore, stood only feet away from Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 when he delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech. Moore had been invited to dais for her role in the civil-rights movement as vice president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
In 1986, Beatty, who developed real estate in Columbus, sold a key piece of property to the city that Columbus needed to develop the King Arts District. Beatty made the sale contingent on the city naming a park after his late grandmother.
Born in 1940 in Columbus, Otto Beatty earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in business from Howard University and a law degree from Ohio State University.
He served as special counsel to the state attorney general, a chairman of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, president of the Franklin County Trial Lawyers Association and, most recently, on the Downtown Commission.
As a state lawmaker, he was known as a vocal opponent of hate crimes and an advocate for keeping programs to help minority-owned businesses.
“Otto Beatty was a true public servant, someone who dedicated his life to fight for the disadvantaged and marginalized people of our state, ensuring they, too, have the opportunity to pursue their American dream right here in Ohio,” House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, said in a statement. “Otto Beatty was a friend to working people, an advocate for minority businesses and a champion for Ohio families. He made a difference in the lives of countless people across our state. I am proud to have known him, and am even luckier to have called him a friend. He will be missed.”
Former state lawmaker Tom Roberts, who now heads the Ohio NAACP, remembered Beatty as a helpful, insightful legislator.
“Otto was a lawyer and businessman who was very conscientious about legislation that effected businesses and also African-Americans,” said Roberts, who served with Beatty in the House.
When Roberts arrived at the Statehouse as a freshman legislator in 1986, he found Beatty willing to share his wisdom and advice about how to get things done. “I think he served the state well as a legislator and as a lawyer.”
Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, also found Beatty to be a helpful presence when he joined the General Assembly for the first time in 1983.
“He taught me the process,” Leland said. “He mentored me through some tough issues and became the good friend that I will miss terribly.”
USA Today Network Ohio Bureau Chief Jackie Borchardt contributed to this report.
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