Dr. Jimmie 'B' Benson, 67: College professor and state biologist

Taking a walk with Dr. Jimmy Benson was like stepping into science class.

Perhaps it was to be expected. This South Carolina native earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in biology, and got his doctoral degree in mycology, said his wife, Elizabeth Benson of Atlanta.

"He would tell me all about the different trees he liked, and compare the life of plants to human life," she said. "He loved talking about that. With anybody he would meet, he would end up talking about biology. It was part of him."

On March 25, Dr. Jimmy "B" Benson died at Piedmont Hospital from complications of an infection. He was 67. A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the International Chapel of World Changers Church in College Park. Murray Brothers Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Dr. Benson was born in Bamberg, a small town located on South Carolina's coastal plains. He earned his bachelor's degree from Morris College, a historically black liberal arts school in Sumter, S.C. He met Elizabeth Murphy, his wife of 42 years, at Atlanta University. The scientist earned his doctorate from Cornell University in 1972.

Dr. Benson taught briefly at Morris College and Savannah State before he became a biologist for the state of Georgia. He held that position for 18 years before various illnesses -- including bad knees and legs that rendered him wheelchair-bound -- forced an early retirement in 1994.

To Jimetria P. Benson, a daughter who lives in Atlanta, her father was a family trailblazer.

"That's the best word to describe him," she said. "He was the first in his family to go to college, and everybody followed suit after that. He came to the big city and that was a big deal back then. A lot of his brothers, sisters and nephews live here because of him."

Growing up, Ms. Benson remembers her father judging science projects for local public schools. And he always lent a hand when his two daughters competed in school science contests.

"He would explain the scientific method, then let us take over from there," said Ms. Benson, a 1989 graduate of Atlanta's Benjamin Mays High. "He would let us come up with a hypothesis and take it from there. He would be a guide, but not overbearing."

Additional survivors include another daughter, Natasha Benson Pittman of Alpharetta; his mother, Lila Mae Benson of Bamberg, S.C.; four brothers, Harold Benson of Frankfort, Ky.; Lonnie Benson of Blythwood, S.C.; Bobby Benson of Atlanta and Darrell Benson of Columbia, S.C.; three sisters, Betty Jones of Bamberg, S.C.; Vera Randall and Renee Tyler, both of Atlanta; and four grandchildren.

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