Verda Byrd was born to Earl and Daisy Beagle in September 1942. Her biological parents, who she describes as white transients, named her Jeanette. Her father walked out on his family leaving her mother with 10 children to care for. After Daisy Beagle fell 30 feet to the ground in a trolley accident, the state of Missouri took her children away from her because she could not care for them.
Jeanette was adopted by a financially strong African-American family who lived in Newton, Kan. Ray and Edwinna changed Jeanette’s name to Verda. As an only child, she lived a good life on her father’s salary as a railroad porter. Verda Ann Wagner was seen and treated as a fair skinned black child. “My adoptive mother, Edwinna Wagner, never told me that she had adopted a white baby,” she said. “She took it to her grave that she had a white daughter.” Byrd grew up living the black experience. Byrd married twice and had a daughter. In 2013, Byrd started searching for her biological parents when her adoptive mother came clean about the adoption. However, Edwinna Wagner shared no other details. “It’s was unbelievable,” Byrd said of learning her biological parents and siblings were white. “I grew up not questioning birth or anything else because it was never told to me that I was born white.” She had lived 70 years with no clue of her true heritage. She, however, has claimed no status as a victim. “Jeanette Beagle does not fit Verda Byrd,” she said. “Jeanette Beagle does not have an education. Jeanette Beagle has no Social Security money because she does not work. She never went to kindergarten.”