In 2021, donors approached the Mackinac Center about finding a way to honor Frank Beckmann, who had just completed a career of over 50 years in broadcast journalism. He spent the last 17 of those years hosting “The Frank Beckmann Show” on Newstalk 760 WJR, where Mackinac Center staff appeared regularly. These donors wanted to honor his legacy, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to figure out how to do it.
From that came the idea of launching the Frank Beckmann Center for Journalism, housed at the Mackinac Center. When we mentioned the idea to Frank, he was enthusiastic: “You know I love you guys – I’ll do anything you need.”
It was with immense sadness that we learned shortly afterward that Frank was suffering from vascular dementia. The disease ultimately took his life in February 2022. But we’re honored to launch the Frank Beckmann Center in his memory and pleased to know that he was aware of it.
Frank had a fascinating and outstanding life, which began in 1949 in Germany. In his last meeting with me, Frank talked about his parents’ life under the Nazi regime. Their experience gave him a thirst for free markets and freedom. He never forgot it.
The Beckmann family moved to Detroit shortly after he was born. He attended Osbourne High School, but the family moved again, to Warren, so he could attend Cousino High School and work at its student radio station. He then spent two years at a community college and began his professional career in 1969 at the age of 20.
In 1973, he went to the newsroom of WJR, where he would spend his career. He started out as the company’s youngest-ever news reporter. Frank quickly moved into sports reporting and had the honor of broadcasting for all four major Michigan sports teams – the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons. He is perhaps most well-known, though, for his 33 years as the play-by-play announcer for the University of Michigan football team.
His most significant impact, however, may have come through his charitable work. Frank used his microphone, his name and his love of golf and fishing to help raise millions of dollars for charities. His annual March of Dimes celebrity golf outing was especially important.
Frank was always interested in politics and public policy, which led him to launch a morning show that ran from 2004 to 2021. He shared the Mackinac Center’s passion for making Michigan a freer and more prosperous state and used his talents and voice toward that end.
His passing has saddened us all, but we are also glad to honor his legacy by launching the Frank Beckmann Center for Journalism. We could do this only with his support and that of his wife Karen.
The Beckmann Center launched officially this month and has multiple components that focus on reporting, journalism and media. This includes the “Mackinac on Michigan” radio show, a monthly broadcast on WJR. It encompasses our Michigan Capitol Confidential news website, with its focus on investigating and reporting on activities that affect individual liberty and economic freedom. We are also launching new programs to train the next generation of free-market journalists. Lastly, the new Center will renew our emphasis on government transparency through public records requests and databases.
There has never been a greater need for high- quality, independent journalism that supports the principles of free people working together in a free society. Because of the generosity of Frank, his family and others, all donations to the Beckmann Center will be matched dollar for dollar. If you’re interested in this opportunity, then please make a generous gift today at www.mackinac.org/frank or, if you have your phone at hand, you can also text key word “Frank” to 50155.
In this life, all good things must come to an end, and in his last broadcast, Frank said, “It’s been a wonderful run. I’ve enjoyed every second of it, I really have. … I’m not perfect, but it’s like I’ve always said, ‘Only a mediocre man is always at his best.’”
Frank was far from mediocre, and we’re honored to be able to continue the legacy of a great man with the Frank Beckmann Center for Journalism.