Clarence Francis “Cap” Benboe was one of the most powerful Black men in Pensacola and got things done that no other Black man was able to accomplish. This is the title of a biographic paper written by Marie “Peaches” Ball, the daughter of Cap Benboe, the owner and founder of Benboe Funeral Home on West Wright Street. Funeral homes in the Black community during segregation were bastions of economic and political power. The one business that would always be in business could wrangle with White politicians and businessmen to exact job opportunities generate business deals, help get residents out of jail, and send promising students to college and mortuary school. Cap Benboe’s daughter, Peaches, doc- uments that her father “worked hard and saved $500 dollars to put down” on the building that would house the funeral home in 1937. According to her writings, Peaches states that, “and his mother gave him the additional $500 and he gave her ¼ share of the funeral home which was at 416 West Wright Street. She writes about how she lived with her father and his wife above the funeral home for years before he built a new home for his family at 810 West Wright St. He wanted her to go to mor- tuary school but she ran away to join the U.S. Marine Corps. One of the most intriguing stories in the biography is the effort that the Black leader- ship exerted to integrate the schools in Es- cambia County. Peaches writes that meetings to integrate the schools were held at Benboe Funeral Home. The names of the persons from the Black and White communities is quite impressive! From the White power structure she lists Congressman Bob Sikes, School Superintendent J.D. “Bud” Hall, Governor Farris Bryant, Police Chief Louis Gross, and Sherriff Bill Davis. From the Black power structure she lists Charlie Taite, Dr. S.W. Boyd, Dr. Goode, Dr. Cobb, NAACP President Abraham Tolbert, Rev. S.L. Jones, Rev. Gorham, and Rev. B.J. Brooks. She writes that on one occasion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Ralph Abernathy met with this group of leaders and spent the night in the Benboe home and during dinner there was seafood galore. Peaches hopes to establish an exhibit on the life of Cap Benboe in the near future to keep his legacy alive in the community he served and love.
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