To the memory of a GoodMan, our Brother Ben Randle (March 4, 1941- March 29, 2000)
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper
TheBlack Business Journal
The message came into my e-mail box on April 3, 2000, from NicqueMontgomery. The subject section announced with an certain, eerieformality: "Memorial services for Ben Randle."
Another death? I exclaimed. For whom has the bell tolled, thistime? For whom has our community been cut just little shorter? Moreurgent for me was the fact that the name on the obituary was all toofamiliar. Ben Randle. Immediately, I sent a request to the e-maillist to which Nicque had directed the announcement. I asked: "Is itthe same Ben Randle, community affairs liaison/public servicespirited Brother?" I added in my request to the Brothers and Sisterson the same e-mail list (primarilycommunications/journalism/broadcasting/pr specialists) that "the BenRandle whom I knew was truly an outstanding pillar and bridge forAfrican-Americans and continental Africans here in Houston. He stoodalmost 6.2 ft in height, ebony Black and very handsomepan-Africanist. As a chronicler of news and events regarding allpersons of African descent here in the U.S., I can state that BenRandle lived as a frontline soldier for our shared heritageinterests. He had a noble, even if imperfect, quest and attitudeabout life and our community."
With continuing incredulity and wishful doubt that he was not theone whose death has just been announced, with an unyielding optimismand palpable hope for a good man called Ben Randle, I still wanted toknow if it's really true. Really, and frankly, I just wished that itwas another "Ben Randle." Just any other "Ben Randle." No; not theBen Randle I knew who served all, spoke his truths with love andfraternal affection to all. I held such feelings, such fervent hopes.Hopes. Just hopes. The details read Benjamin Franklin Randle (March4, 1941 - March 29, 2000).
One electronic communication to me came into my box to punctuatemy mortal wishes, my better wishes for the Ben Randle we all knew.That e-mail came in less than 10 minutes after my request for morespecific information was sent on the list. It came from one of thehard-nosed, prolific and resilient reporters in Texas. It came, notin cap an lower letters, but all lower letters. It read thus: "hichido. greetings ... robert stanton here ...i was just asking thesame question of a colleague who had received the email from windsorvillage. i'll let you know as soon as i hear something definitive. bythe way, i am very impressed with your publications. keep up the goodwork my brutha ...peace, robert "
Increasingly, with every other e-mail which came, my hopes that itcould be a different Ben Randle seemed like a candle in Sahelianwind.
The definitive word was sent into my box by 3:16 a.m. of WednesdayApril 5, 2000. It stated, painfully and precisely: "Unfortunately itis the same guy.... I'm coordinating his memorial tomorrow evening,well actually this evening at Windsor Village UMC... He died of heartattack while attending a funeral in San Antonio. He was buried there,yesterday. Nicque Montgomery. Emage & Co. Public Relations
Early Wednesday morning, 9.51 a.m. one of the African-Americancommunity's finest public relations practitioners who laboredactively for the election of Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown, the affableLinda K. Brown of Advantage Communications responded to my initialinquiry by adding "Yes, this is the same Ben Randle.... better knownas 'Gentle Ben.' We all are in shock because of the loss. We won't bethe same without him." Radio business exec Bobrie Jefferson sentanother to me, capturing in a short, remarkable tribute that"Heaven's gain is our loss. It's Ben."
Such reflects the goodness of the man. Such informed ourcollective wishes for his longevity. The man radiated very positiveenergy and outlook on issues and events. His personality anddignified carriage recalled for me, every time I saw him, thelikeness and semblance of my older relatives who are back home inIgbo land of east central Nigeria. In the U.S., his conciliatory andmeasured tone always reminded me of my maternal uncle, Prof. ChigboOfong.
My initial feeling of doubt about his passage and better wishesfor the Ben Randle was not borne out any ill will against any other"Ben Randle." May God forgive my earnest but sincere wishes. Yet, Ido not regret keeping such a place in my heart and mind for a man whowill measure up to any community's model of selfless service andnetworking activist.
Fundamentally, therefore, my 'say it ain't so' hopefulness was afinal wish for an excellent Brother and selfless soul who neverforgot his African roots, and made me feel much cared for and blessedamongst my African American brethren and sisters. He did same for allof us. Neither rain nor sunshine stood between Ben Randle's beliefand efforts to make the African-American community a much betterplace. He was never too proud to offer service at any level tobenefit all. I never saw him too angry to build bridges and make adifference. He was a rare kind. He died serving and remains worthy ofemulation. He personified self-reliance in our community. He was theantithesis of those contortionists and distortion artists who wouldrather stereotype the Black Male than do some really serious profileof such regular men of uncommon moral stature and community service.He did not fit the sensationalist reporter's "typical image" of theBlack men. He was, in my eyes, heart and mind, a good man.
May your gentle soul rest in perfect peace, Brother Ben!
Nwangwu,recipient of the Journalism Excellence Award, HABJ 1997, is theFounder & Publisher of USAfricaonline.com(first African-owned U.S.-based professional newspaper to bepublished on the internet), The Black Business Journal, BBJonline.comand NigeriaCentral.com.He covered U.S. president Bill Clinton's visit to parts of Africa,March-April 2, 1998, and currently serves on Houston Mayor LeeBrown's international (Africa) business advisory board, and Houstonchapter of the NAACP.
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