Buford leader muddies water on his connection to racist recording
Phillip Beard, second from left, leads the meeting of the Buford City Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. It was the first commission meeting since an explosive tape surfaced of now-former city schools superintendent Geye Hamby using the n-word. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM
Things quickly grew heated at Buford City Hall Tuesday night, as questions — and confusion — continued to swirl about longtime leader Phillip Beard’s ties to an explosive recording of a now-former employee’s racist tirade.
During a tense, public-comment-period exchange with Gwinnett NAACP president Penny Poole, Beard turned to Rev. Avery Headd for help. Headd is the senior pastor at Buford’s Poplar Hills Baptist Church.
Beard pointed out that the pastor had had the tape in question “a year ago,” and that they’d spoken about it last week.
“Sir, did I ask you, ‘Was my voice on that tape?’” Beard said Tuesday.
“Yes you did,” Headd replied from the audience.
Beard: “What’d you tell me?”
Headd: “I couldn’t recognize it as your voice.”
Later, Headd confirmed to the AJC that a copy of the recording containing Hamby’s purported tirade had been sent to his church anonymously. He said he spoke with news organizations and friends in the legal field about what to do with the tape, but had nothing to do with the one that ultimately surfaced in the federal lawsuit filed in June by former schools employee Mary Ingram.
Headd said he wasn’t supporting Beard’s theory about spliced tapes, just that he couldn’t say definitively if it was Beard’s voice on the recording.
Beard was not available for comment following the meeting. The voice he previously identified as his doesn’t use racial slurs in the audio but doesn’t object to them either.
“(Expletive) that (n-word). I’ll kill these (expletive) – shoot that (expletive) if they let me,” the person identified as Hamby can be heard saying. The person speaking repeatedly refers to blacks as “deadbeat (n-word).”
Ingram was at Tuesday’s meeting with a handful of supporters but did not speak during the public comment period. Poole, the Gwinnett NAACP president, spoke at length.
Before taking over the AJC's morning newsletter, Tyler Estep worked as a reporter covering DeKalb County, its government and its people. A Gwinnett County native and University of Georgia graduate, he has been with the AJC since 2015. He previously covered his home county and served stints on the paper's hyperlocal and breaking news teams.