Beverly Barksdale Sheppe was born in Hopewell, Virginia, and grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. After graduating from Greensboro Senior High School, she studied sociology at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro), graduating in 1940. Sheppe then did one year of graduate studies in social work at Tulane University before spending nine months in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, welfare department.
In 1942, Sheppe joined the Red Cross in Alexandria, Virginia. She served as assistant field director for two years in three different hospitals: Camp Lee in Petersburg, Virginia; Ashford General Hospital in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; and Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1944, Sheppe was assigned to the 120th General Hospital, which traveled from San Francisco to Finschhafen, New Guinea, on the Clip Fontaine. After six months, Sheppe followed the invasion of the Philippines and was sent to an evacuation hospital in Lingayen Gulf, and then to the 120th Evacuation Hospital at Tagaytay Ridge, Philippines. Sheppe returned to the United States at the end of World War II. She was later sent to Germany, and served in hospitals in Augsburg, Berlin, and Bremerhaven between 1946 and 1948.
After leaving the Red Cross in 1948, Sheppe earned a master’s degree from the New York School of Social Work and was briefly employed by the Veterans Administration before accepting a teaching position at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She married and had two children.