Benjamin Jenkins, Educator, Early Black Marine Passes

Benjamin Jenkins

Benjamin Jenkins, Educator, Early Black Marine Passes

Benjamin Jenkins, 95, an esteemed educator, civic leader, and one of the nation’s first African-American U.S. Marines, died in New Jersey on Jan. 11, 2019. In his near century on earth, Jenkins saw and achieved things that most Americans can only imagine or read about in history books. 

He was one of the nation’s first Black Marines — serving in a harshly segregated military to defend his country in World War II. He was a gifted teacher and educational administrator who helped hundreds of young people achieve their dreams as a teacher and administrator in the Detroit and Great Neck, N.Y. public schools. 

He was a civil rights activist who stood near Martin Luther King, Jr. as Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. He successfully demanded equal opportunity for all in housing, education and healthcare. 

He was a wonderful and committed father and family man who always put others before himself.  

Jenkins is survived by his sons, Craig and Alan Jenkins; sister, Dr. Shirley Jenkins Phelps; grandchildren Maya and Khari Jenkins; daughter-in-law Kirsten Levingston; and many beloved nieces, nephews and cousins. His marriages to Olga Culmer and the late Mary Catherine Ryder ended in divorce. His third wife, Annyce Barrett, predeceased him.

In his 95 years, he forged his own path, loved and was loved and made the world a better place. It’s hard to ask for more than that in one life.



Editor’s note: Benjamin Jenkins lived in Alameda for about 20 years. In 2014, the Alameda Sun covered the fact that he received the Congressional Gold Medal for his service during World War II in February of that year. (“Congress Honors WWII Veteran from Alameda,” April 3, 2014).