Black History Month: Texas City home to world record holder for longest-serving pastor of 1 church

Rosie Nguyen Image
Friday, March 1, 2024
Texas City home to world record holder of longest-tenured pastor
Reverend Doris Benford Sr., 93, reflects on Black History Month and his 73-year career at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Texas City.

TEXAS CITY, Texas (KTRK) -- At 93 years old, Reverend Doris Benford Sr. is defying all odds. He's barely able to walk, but he still delivers sermons to this day at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Texas City.

Benford was born in Kemp, Texas, on March 12, 1930. Much of his upbringing and childhood took place during a time of deep racial segregation.

"We were fresh from the rules of the Civil War and slavery, where we were locked in. When I say locked in, I mean we had our place, and we knew how far we could go and couldn't go. We also understood that if we were to go beyond that, there would be consequences," Benford said.

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Benford told ABC13 it was religion and faith that helped his family get through extreme poverty, oppression, and barriers. His calling to ministry came when he was just 12 years old, and only three years later did he begin serving as pastor at churches in Beaumont, Glen Flora, and Wharton.

"I came from a very devout religious home. Religion has often been called an opiate, a painkiller for the poor. My mom and grandmother, they had nobody but God. They pushed us and told us that our only hope to make it and survive the world we live in was to put our entire faith in God's hands," Benford said.

He came to Rising Star in Texas City in 1950 and ultimately became a fixture in many of the civil rights movements in Galveston County. Benford served on the committee that worked to ensure a peaceful integration of schools in La Marque ISD in the 1970s.

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Then, in the 1980s, he helped with efforts to redraw precinct lines so Black candidates could finally get elected to county leadership.

"Rising Star Baptist Church has been one of the foundations of civil rights. Rev. Benford is a legend. He's allowed all types of campaign and voting polls to be held here throughout the years. Why wouldn't you recognize someone who has done as much as he's done for this city, for this county, for this state, for this world?" Ursula Burns, one of Benford's congregation members, asked.

That's why Burns wanted to find a way to get Benford recognized internationally. In 2022, he became the Guinness World Record holder for the longest-tenured pastor of the same church. He's currently at 73 years and counting.

"You have about 52 weeks a year, 52 Sundays times 73. I mean, that's a minimum number of sermons that he's preached, not including revivals, midday services, nighttime services, funerals, and other types of things he's been a part of," Burns said.

When asked why he never left Rising Star, Benford said, "God came to me in a vision and showed me coming here. But he never showed me leaving here. If I leave, the Holy Spirit will have to take me."

Benford will celebrate his 94th birthday next month, a milestone he never expected to reach. As he reflects during Black History Month, he hopes to leave behind a legacy that will inspire anyone struggling or suffering to lean on their faith and community.

"Every day I'm here is history, and that's wonderful. Words can't express my gratitude for the crowds that started way back yonder to help keep this church going," Benford said.

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