When I sat down at my desk at the union hall recently to read my newspaper, I was overjoyed to see a piece that piqued my interest. The tremendous news that Thomas N. Benford, a friend of mine, had recently been promoted to president and chief operations officer of Coca-Cola Beverages Florida (“Texas City native named president, COO of Coke Florida,” The Daily News, April 27).
Thomas Benford is the son of the Rev. D.N. Benford and the late, but never forgotten, Julia Wright Benford. It saddened us in our community that an accomplishment such as this didn’t get front page attention.
Benford defied all odds as an African American male, and as a graduate of Rice and Harvard universities; not a small feat. He is a La Marque Independent School District graduate and is one of two African American graduates of whom I know personally that attended Harvard University. The other was Mac Herbert Clark. I mention this because there are some who continue to make disparaging remarks about the quality of La Marque Independent School District.
My uncle, Robert Kelly, and deacon Wharton Zie Rivers, another friend of mine and graduate of Abraham Lincoln High School, during their U.S. Army careers, were confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the rank of lieutenant colonel.
These events, along with the ongoing construction of two new elementary schools and a middle school being built in the twin cities, reinforce my belief, as a proud graduate of Abraham Lincoln High in 1966, that the spirit of La Marque ISD will never die. Yes, we’re now part of Texas City ISD. The Eagle, Tiger, and Cougar blood runs deep. I’m forever grateful to the Texas City ISD school board for their unyielding support in keeping the spirit of La Marque ISD alive. From the time that we’ve merged, they’ve listened and acted upon our concerns.
The new schools are a testament to all concerned. We’re one district and are able to coexist because we all love our community. The merging of the districts reinforces my belief that opposite factions can find common grounds. The era in which I was raised, ’50s and ’60s, has forged in me the unwavering belief that African Americans and law enforcement can respect each other and work together.
We can resolve our problems and make this a better community. From the ’60s, we learned that protesting is easy but being willing to sit down and reason together is more difficult.
Because of the leadership of pastors like D.N. Benford and members of the Mainland Ecumenical Ministerial Alliance, we’re able to consult with our mayors and police chiefs as reasonable men and women as we find workable solutions to problems. We know how to collaborate as peacemakers and not enemies. Although individuals will attempt to divide our cohesive group, we will not allow that to happen. We will continue to support the positive directions in which our police departments, city administrators, school district, and College of the Mainland administrators are leading us.
We have a bright future. God bless our communities.