Quitman Francis Beckley was born at Frederick, Maryland, on February 5, 1891, a son of Quitman Shields Beckley, who was captain in the Spanish-American War, and Caroline (Kreh) Beckley. His great-grandfather Captain Gabriel Beckley, was commander of the Frederick United Guards, afterwards called the Frederick Rifleman. After receiving his academic education at Saint Charles’ College, 1907-1908, Mr. Beckley continued his studies at the Dominican House of Studies and at the Catholic University of America between 1910 and 1917 (Bachelor of Canon Law, 1915), taking postgraduate work in the social sciences the final two years of his university residence and receiving his degree of Doctor of Laws from Providence College, at Providence, Rhode Island, in 1928 (hon. LL.D.). Having entered the Dominican Order on November 25, 1908, and being professed, December 3, 1909, he was ordained a priest of the Catholic Church by Archbishop Bonzano in the chapel of the Dominican House of Studies on June 23, 1915. He was special lecturer, Westminster Choir College of Music, and was frequently called upon to address various men’s organizations.
When the United States entered the First World War, he was commissioned a lieutenant, junior grade, in the Chaplain Corps of the United States Navy, on June 26, 1917, and was assigned duty with the Atlantic Fleet, subsequently being transferred at his own request, on April 2, 1918, to the United States Marine Corps, and, somewhat later assigned to the 3d Replacement Battalion, Infantry, of the Marine Corps, for duty in France. Thus, from April to December of 1918, he was on active duty with the A. E. F. at the front, being gassed (Battle of Belleau Wood) and shell-shocked while carrying on his duties. After two months of service, late in 1918, also with the Graves Registration Service, United States Army Headquarters, Paris, France, he was once again assigned to the United States Atlantic Fleet, and remained with that assignment until July 9, 1919, when he resigned from the Navy. On November 19, 1920, he was re-commissioned a lieutenant, junior grade, in the Chaplains Corps, of the United States Navy Reserve Force, by President Wilson. On January 6, 1921, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Chaplain Corps of the Ohio Naval Militia by Governor Cox.
Upon his return to civil life in 1919, he became a member of the faculty of Aquinas College at Columbus, Ohio, in September of 1919, but in 1922 he was assigned as curate and later as pastor of Saint Mary’s Church, Johnson City, Tennessee, where he remained until 1923, then becoming a member of the Western Mission Band of the Dominican Order, with headquarters at Minneapolis. Three years later, after serving as curate at Saint Mary’s Priory, at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1926 he became associated with the Eastern Mission Band of the Dominican Order. He held this position until September of 1928, when he was assigned to his present duties as director of Catholic Activities and as Catholic Chaplain at Princeton University. He served at Princeton for over 15 years. In connection with his work in the academic field he has taken part in academic discussions with distinguished clergymen of other denominations, especially in the New England States. The first religious regularly commissioned in the United States Navy, the Rev. Father Beckley was twice cited in orders of the French Army for his services in France, and was authorized to wear the Fourragère aux couleurs de la Croix de guerre. He is a former trustee and vice-president of the board of trustees of the Newman School at Lakewood, New Jersey, a member of the original faculty and a trustee until 1926 of Providence College, Providence, Rhode Island, a member of the Medieval Academy of America, and a contributor of articles to the “Commonwealth.” Supporting his associations of the First World War by membership in Princeton Post, American Legion Department of New Jersey, he has served the post as chaplain in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1934, and 1935, while also being commander of the Post in 1932. He was appointed auxiliary chaplain to armed forces on Princeton Campus, April 2, 1943 by Abp. Spellman. Father Beckley died on May 18, 1963, and is buried in the Dominican plot at Mount Olivet in Washington, D.C.