Born: August 26, 1930
Died: March 22, 1986
Family: Wife, Peggy; children, Robert Jr., Michael, Tom, Patrick and Laura Leigh
Special Honors: 1982 recipient of the SESAC Humanist Award; Inducted posthumously into Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1991
Bob Benson’s first of many books was Laughter in the Walls, first published in 1969 and republished by Gaither Family Resources in 1991, where it is still available
On a tombstone you usually find the birth date and date of death. The tiny dash...that one mark between our entrance and exit represents the totality of our earthly existence. Nobody did the dash better than Bob Benson. He carved a deep and precisely etched impression, not only on his family and friends, but also the foundational bedrock of the creative Christian culture of his day.
His chiseling tools? A soft answer, boyish grin, a steaming cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows and poignant stories that penetrated the hardest heart. He was a master craftsman who never chose a big word when a small one would do. Whether teaching on “I AM the vine, you are the branches” or spinning a tale of crystal goblets and peanut butter jars, he held moments up to the light and helped us see the hidden wonder. He magnified the mystery.
“It’s hard to believe, but Bob always thought of himself as a failure of sorts,” says Gloria Gaither. “He started out as a pastor, perhaps because he had such a heart for ministering to folks. Like most young pastors, he felt the pressure to perform, to build the church to an impressive number with an impressive budget. But as Bob used to say, he had a membership drive and managed to drive that church right down to a few faithful families.”
This challenging process with often difficult church members was a valuable and necessary hands-on school for Bob. He was learning his most important life lesson: how to become a loving husband to his beloved Peggy and patient father to his growing family. In that small parsonage he began writing the wisdom gleaned from everyday moments. There at that old desk his writer’s pen found its voice.
In 1961, Bob joined the John T. Benson Publishing Company, and shortly thereafter he and his father John T. (Pop) Benson established HeartWarming Records. In an environment energized by budding Christian artists as well as seasoned veterans including the Imperials, the Bill Gaither Trio, the Rambos, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Downings, the Speers, Doug Oldham, and the Stamps Quartet to mention a few, Bob began to realize his true calling. His tiny office became the place where he quietly shepherded the wounded souls of artists, writers, musicians, producers and just plain folks. In that dusty warehouse stacked high with hymnals, yearbooks and records … a father/pastor/writer began to flourish.
As word spread of his relaxed yet inspiring way of weaving story wisdom, his “little talks,” as he called them, became more and more in demand. This unassuming, thin man in preppy attire, loafers and a sweater would walk on a stage, and audiences craned their necks and hearts to hear the words. Slowly, methodically, he chipped away the scar tissue of doubt, abuse and fear. It was a beautiful, holy sneaky thing to watch.
Perhaps running a record company was not really his calling, but he was the master at calling artists together for annual spiritual retreats. Bob also became an intricate part in what came to be known as Praise Gatherings where 10,000 people got so quiet you could hear a pin drop, which became necessary in his later life when the ravages of cancer had reduced his voice to a whisper. His passion in life was convincing people to accept the invitation to “share in the very being of God.”
At Bob’s homegoing service, Gloria Gaither concluded her eulogy with this tribute:
In a world of deaf-mutes,