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David Beckwith, Publicist and Gatekeeper of Elvis Presley's Graceland, Dead at 67

Beckwith died Jan. 19 after experiencing sepsis following a hip replacement surgery

<p>ANNIE WATT </p> David Beckwith

ANNIE WATT

David Beckwith

David Beckwith, a longtime publicist for Elvis Presley's Graceland, has died. He was 67.

Beckwith died Jan. 19 after experiencing sepsis following a hip replacement surgery, according to fellow publicist Lynn Weiss.

The University of Oregon graduate was born on April 28, 1956, in Albion, Nebraska, and began his career in journalism in 1979 at Rogers & Cowan.

That year, he arranged for Moët & Chandon to be a sponsor of the Golden Globes Awards, which included being the exclusive champagne served and Magnums placed on all tables with the label prominently visible — a partnership that still continues to this day.

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He represented Wolfgang Puck, along with his annual Governor’s Dinner at the Academy Awards, and Spago for many years.

Beckwith also provided representation to Freddie Gershon and Music Theatre International along with Freddie’s annual scholarship for teachers with the Kennedy Center and Stephen Sondheim.

<p>Mick Hutson/Redferns</p> Graceland

Mick Hutson/Redferns

Graceland

In 1982, he was appointed his biggest role when he was chosen to open Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, as a public museum. The opening press conference with Priscilla Presley had over 700 media members in attendance.

Beckwith also served as a gatekeeper for the iconic Memphis, Tennessee mansion, helping mold its public image for 42 years. He continued his work with Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises until his death.

Jerry Schilling, a Presley family friend who became pals with Elvis in the 1950s, spoke fondly of Beckwith and his role.

"David was a friend and, from time to time, he was a confidant," the talent manager told PEOPLE exclusively following Beckwith's death. "He was just a big part of the Graceland family. He was there at the beginning [when it opened to the public in 1982].

Schilling continued, "I would say that David Beckwith was the Personal Public Relations to Graceland. One of the qualities that I loved about him was he could get things done. You would never know that about his persona. He was pretty powerful, but he never showed that. He was always there, but humble, in the background. I think the real pros are like that — and David was one."

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Along with forming his own business, The Beckwith Company, in 1992, he worked as a pioneer in the LGBTQ+ community, serving on the local and national boards of the Human Rights Campaign and the board of Outfest in Los Angeles.

"David was not only a colleague, but a dear friend to so many of us and a beloved member of our Graceland family. His wit, sassiness, laughter, and kindness will live on in the hearts of those who knew him well — and his contribution and dedication to the Elvis legacy will forever be remembered," Graceland said in a statement.

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He is survived by his partner of 42 years and husband of 15 years, Dietrich Nelson, and his adored pets, Edie, Arlen, Daisy and Doris.

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