Rev. Benford Stellmacher, 1953-2016, !Presente!
(APN) ATLANTA – Rev. Benford Dwight Stellmacher, 63, a strong advocate for, and generous servant of, low-income and homeless people; someone who carried on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement; and a long-standing producer of the “Issues and Answers” show Atlanta’s People TV public access television, has passed away.
An extraordinary man and gentle giant, he was an inadequately sung hero of Atlanta whose eyes were always on the less fortunate. This focus was both spiritual and political for him.
Issues and Answers ran on People TV for eleven years, and was known for wearing his trademark red shirt with denim overalls.
Every year he gave away toys to children in need, and was known for giving out some of the best toys at that. People TV has announced it will make sure the toy drive goes on this year.
Atlanta Progressive News’s favorite memory of Rev. Stellmacher is certainly the day he came down to Atlanta City Council in 2011.
“I am floored!” he shouted at the Council.
Then he fell on the floor and shouted his two minute remarks so loud that the entire Chamber could hear him despite being feet away from the microphone.
At issue was the Council’s threatened cuts to Public Access television, which he helped to prevent.
APN reported on Rev. Stellmacher’s comments to the Finance/Executive Committee about People TV funding in depth.
“To him, that show was the on camera voice of what he was all about. He could rant, rave, and try to make the public… see what the issues are and how he thought they should be corrected,” Maynard Eaton, a member of the People TV Board of Directors, said.
“He used that show as a platform to articulate his concerns and angst and philosophies on a range of issues – he did it in the spirit and the memory of Hosea Williams and Alley Pat,” Eaton said.
“He didn’t need that bull horn he carried around all the time; he had an inner bull horn.”
“The greatest lesson that I learned from my father was networking. My father was a people person,” Benford Stellmacher, Jr., who lives in Virginia, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“My father’s personality opened up doors for him to meet people in all types of positions,” he said.
Rev. Stellmacher was described as gregarious, loud, laughing, boisterous.
“He was for what was right and was just. He gave away food baskets. He always advocated for the poor and homeless. He would make sure different churches would feed the homeless,” State Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) told APN.
“Rev. Benford Stellmacher was a dear friend and SCLC stalwart,” Dr. Charles Steele, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said in a statement.
“Like Hosea Williams, Rev. Ben was a loyal and dedicated SCLC foot soldier and civil rights warrior. His spirit and considerable contributions will be sorely missed,” Steele said.
“He was a good man; a righteous man who spent much of his life nonviolently fighting for freedom and justice for the poor and downtrodden in Atlanta, and throughout the nation,” Steele said.
In February 2016, Rev. Shellmacher organized a rally to stop “Black on Black Violence.”
Other recent advocacy efforts including opposing the Confederate Flag at Westview Cemetery.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he was known for many years in Hartford as the singing bus driver.
Rev. Stellmacher’s mother, “Bette” Stellmacher was a well-known activist in Hartford.
At one point, he roller skated all the way from Hartford to Washington, D.C.
Stellmacher came to Atlanta in the mid-1980s and worked with the late Rev. Hosea Williams.
He also worked to not only register voters, but to make sure that people in jail who had not been adjudicated but literally could not get to the polls, could vote.
“He never forgot about the people in jail. He made sure the people in the jail that were eligible to vote had the opportunity to do so – year after year after year after year,” Dr. Dwanda Farmer said.
“It should not go unnoticed that Mr. Stellmacher looked after the least of us. He never let someone’s station in life dictate what he thought about them,” Dr. Farmer said.
“He didn’t care anything about making a spectacle of himself – that was just fine with him,” Dr. Farmer said.
“His departure leaves a void that will not soon filled,” Ben Howard, senior advocate, told APN.
Homegoing Celebration Services are being scheduled by the family with a Viewing on Friday, October 28, 2016, at 8 p.m., at the Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home located at 1003 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, Atlanta, Georgia 30310.
The Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, 11am, St. Peters Missionary Baptist Church.
He is survived by two sons, Benford Jr. and Christopher; as well as several siblings, including Alice Redding, William Irving Stellmacher, Celeste Sampson, Tracey Hamilton, and Eunice Stellmacher.