Herman T. Benn

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2007

SUFFOLK—Herman Thomas Benn, 95, of the 2700 block of Burning Tree Lane, died June 29, 2007, in Bon Secours Maryview Nursing Care Center, Suffolk.

Mr. Benn was a native of Southampton County and the patriarch of eight siblings born of the marriage of Mack Benn Sr. and Mamie Scott Benn.

His family moved to the Suffolk area when he was in his early teens. He was married to the former Marian Rose Waller, a former public school teacher.

She read the law under her husband, passed the Virginia State Bar in 1981 and they practiced together under the firm name of Benn and Benn of Suffolk. He began his education in the public schools of Southampton and Nansemond counties. He graduated from Booker T. Washington Junior High and Nansemond Institute.

After graduating from Nansemond Institute, he was awarded a State of Virginia Teacher’s Certificate. He later earned a bachelor of arts degree in the division of education and philosophy at Virginia Union University and a law degree from Robert H. Terrell Law School of Washington,


He completed a course in electrical engineering at Temple University in Philadelphia, while in the Army Reserves during World War II. He served as a non-commissioned officer in a Signal Corps unit which was attached to the Air Force during World War II.

He was in charge of all electric power at Roberts Field Airport located in Liberia, West Africa, which was used mainly for refueling planes during the war and was also the airport for the country of Liberia.

Prior to World War II, he was a teacher and principal in Lancaster, Northumberland and Nansemond counties of Virginia.

After being discharged from the armed services, he entered the Robert H. Terrell Law School of Washington, D.C. While attending law school, he became a real estate salesman and a U.S. Postal Clerk.

After receiving his law degree, he began the general practice of law in Richmond. He later was appointed assistant city attorney for the City of Richmond.

In 1968, he resigned from that position and was appointed to the position of U.S. administrative law judge and served in that position in both the U.S. Department of Health and Welfare and the Department of Labor.

He resigned from that position in 1974 and returned to private practice.

In 1976, he was appointed assistant commonwealth attorney for the City of Suffolk and returned to private practice of law in 1980. While in practice in Richmond, he and Roland D. Ealy, now deceased, won the case of Johnson vs. Virginia before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1962 which held that segregating people in courtrooms based on race was unconstitutional. Johnson vs. Virginia 373 U.S. 61-1963.

Mr. Benn was a retired member of the American Bar Association, the Virginia State Bar and the Suffolk Bar Association.

He was a life member of the NAACP and chairman of the Legal Redress Committee of the Nansemond-Suffolk Branch.

The committee has investigated the 15 applications received. One case was settled and one is now pending in the U.S. District Court.

He was a life member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Suffolk.

Survivors include his wife, Marian Waller Benn; two sisters, Dorothy B. Armistead and Bernice B. Maloney, both of Suffolk; three sisters-in-law, Bernice Fletcher of Baltimore, Gladys Pegeas of Richmond and Elaine B. Benn of Sun City West, Ariz.; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

A memorial service was held Tuesday in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church by the Rev. Father Joseph Green Jr.

An Omega service was conducted by the Epsilon Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Monday in Crocker Funeral Home.

Condolences may be extended to the family at www.crockerfuneralhome.com.