“... Every man is within his star, each in his time. Each man must respond to the call of God in his lifetime and not in somebody else’s time.”
-- Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
The Rev. Bennie Brinson received his formative schooling in the Emanuel County public school system, and graduated from Emanuel County Elementary and High School in 1957. He completed a year’s study as a pre-theological student at New York University and served in the U.S. Army from 1958-61, where he spent two years as a chaplain’s assistant in the 5th Missile Battalion West Germany.
Using the G.I. Bill to finance post-secondary studies at Georgia Southern College, he earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees in the Social Sciences.
Brinson taught social studies at Swainsboro High School for one year before transferring to Emanuel County Institute. In 1974, he was sought out and appointed assistant director of admissions and assistant registrar at Emanuel County Junior College (now East Georgia State College). He also worked for several years as director of Student Services and retired in 2002 as vice president of Student Services after 28 years of employment.
“I have several interests. I’m a history buff and I enjoy books,” he said.
He rattles off acclaimed authors and titles: Dr. Benjamin Mays, Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Maya Angelou, “Up from Slavery,” “Roots,” “The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass.”
“The National Museum of African American History and Culture is on my ‘to do’ list, but historical landmarks like The Ford Theater, The King Center, Tuskegee Institute and the George Washington Carver Museum were of extreme interest to me,” he said.
Growing up in Twin City
The second son of the late Thomas (Bookie) Brinson and Inez Turner Brinson, Brinson’s roots are in Twin City, where he fondly recalls a childhood saturated with elders.
“I was richly nurtured by my grandparents. I spent a great deal of time with them and their friends. I lived with my parents, but enjoyed the company of older people,” he said.
Brinson’s introduction to church came early in life.
“I can’t remember a time when I was not in church. We went to church with grown-ups. We sat with them during service and learned how to behave in church by watching them and we learned what they learned,” he recalled.
Submitting to an intense interest in the Word, Brinson was 16 in 1955 when he obeyed a call to the ministry. Still a high school student, he delivered his initial sermon in 1956 and was ordained in 1968 at Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church in Twin City. Over the years, Brinson has pastored churches in Emanuel, Bulloch, Bryant, Jenkins and Jefferson counties. He was recognized for 50-plus years in the ministry during the 147th session of the General Missionary Baptist Convention in November 2017.
Interim pastor at Original
Brinson is not a new face to the members of Original First African Baptist. Though currently serving as interim pastor at Original, he had previously spent 27 years as shepherd of the same flock until relinquishing his ministerial responsibilities in 1999. So, in a way, he’s come full circle since his installation in 1972 when Original was a part of Historical First African Baptist Church on what was Cotton Avenue and is now Bobby Donaldson Avenue.
Arrissie Jasper and her late husband, Dudley, were impressed with Brinson’s ministry and joined the church more than 40 years ago.
“My husband was one of the deacons ordained by Rev. Brinson. He’s a wonderful leader because he not only loves Jesus, but he loves his congregation as well. He’s humble, compassionate and supportive,” she said.
One of Brinson’s best-loved Bible verses applies here: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be wear, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“My hope is that the church will find the perfect person to fill this gap,” he said. “I’m here for as long as I am needed. There’s a great work to be done there and although it feels good to be back amongst so many familiar faces, the church needs a foot soldier out there running for the Lord.
“I came with a young family to serve as a pastor in the Statesboro community. My wife, Annie Handberry Brinson, and our two daughters, Gena Renee and Denise B. Rouche, enjoyed being a part of the village around Church Street and Cotton Avenue. Since those days, my family has increased with a son-in-law, Pastor Kenneth Rouche and two grandchildren, Evan and Faith Rouche.”
Over the years Brinson has personally influenced, ordained or mentored the following, just to name a few: Bishop Anthony Chavers, Gary Douglas, Patrick Jones, Frankie Owens and Stephon Young.
John 13: 34-35, another of Brinson’s favorites seems appropriate: “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”