Rev. Alexander Benjamin Sr., 81, a longtime pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Penns Grove, N.J., died Tuesday, Nov. 24, at his home in Pine Hill, N.J., shortly after his release from the hospital where he was treated for blood clots.
Mr. Benjamin retired from Shiloh Baptist Church in 1996, after 18 years as pastor. He later served three years each as interim pastor of North Baptist Church in Woodbury and Second Baptist Church in Mount Holly.
“A lot of young preachers like myself looked up to him,” said Rev. Mark Simmons, pastor of North Baptist Church. “He always held himself in a godly fashion. I just remember him being a very kind and gentle man.”
Mr. Benjamin was often called “the Walking Bible” because of his ability to quote scriptures verbatim with the name of the book, chapter, and verse where they could be found.
Normally Mr. Benjamin was very soft-spoken when he talked with people, Simmons said.
“But when he preached the gospel, he had a loud voice, he almost screamed it,” he said.
Mr. Benjamin was born in 1939 in Maxton, N.C. He was one of five children of Henry and Louise Benjamin. When he was 5, his family moved to Newport News, Va., and he graduated from George Washington Carver High School in 1958.
Mr. Benjamin’s mother died when he was young, and his father died during Mr. Benjamin’s teenage years. After completing high school, Mr. Benjamin and his siblings moved with an aunt to Camden, N.J.
There, he found a job at Campbell Soup Co., where he worked for many years while also serving as a minister, said his grandson, Amin Benjamin.
He joined Friendship Baptist Church, where he sang in the choir and was a member of the Usher Board.
In 1960, he married Annie Scott Benjamin, with whom he later had four children. After their wedding, he joined Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, in Camden, where nearly 60 members of the Scott family were active members.
About this time, Mr. Benjamin felt a call to the ministry, his grandson said. He was licensed to preach in 1970 and began studies at Philadelphia Bible College.
He was ordained in 1974 and received a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Bible College in 1975. He began leading Shiloh Baptist as pastor in 1978.
Amin Benjamin said Mr. Benjamin devoted his life to the church. When he traveled, it was usually to a religious conference.
“He didn’t take vacations often,” Amin Benjamin said. “The ministry was his life.”
Amin Benjamin lived most of his childhood with his mother and grandparents. Growing up with his grandfather was unique, he said:
“He had a parenting style where you didn’t want to let him down. That accomplished a lot more than being strict.”
Most important, Mr. Benjamin set an example for his children and grandchildren.
“We followed him and we followed God, and we followed him to live our lives the best we could,” Amin Benjamin said.
Mr. Benjamin was founder and president of the Saturday Evening Prayer Band. He was a member of the Hampton University Ministers Conference, the National Baptist Convention/USA, the NAACP, and was a past president of the Woodbury Ministers Conference, among several other affiliations.
After Mr. Benjamin’s first wife, Annie, died in 1990, he married Grace Russell Benjamin in 2001. Mr. Benjamin was also predeceased by a daughter, Yvette Benjamin, and three siblings.
In addition to his wife and grandson, Mr. Benjamin is survived by three children, Tracy Muhammad, Alexander Benjamin Jr., and Faith Gibson; one sister; 12 other grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren, and many other relatives and friends.
A funeral service was held Friday, Dec. 4.