New Orleans style music filled the streets of downtown Savannah last Monday as the jazz recessional proceeded to Ellis Square where the family and friends of the late great Ben Tucker continued to celebrate his life.
Hundreds gathered for Ben Tucker’s homegoing services held Monday, June 10, 2013 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension, a service of remembrance and resurrection. As Ben would have it, the services were uplifting and inspiring. Several family members, elected officials, and community leaders gave their account of Ben’s life in the Savannah community.
Ben’s identical twin brother, Reuben Tucker told tales of how he and Ben would confuse people as to who they were. He told the story of when they once visited Hilton Head, someone mistook him for Ben and noticed that the women he was with was not Ben’s wife, Gloria. Throughout the service there were several outbursts of laughter, reminding us of Ben’s sense of humor.
Ben’s son Wayne shared the story of how he and his Dad did not always see eye to eye, and had recently buried the hatchet and had a long conversation that ended with “I love you.” “My father never had room for hate in his heart” said Wayne Tucker as he remembered Ben as the Grand Marshall of the M. L. King, Jr. Parade. During Mayor Edna Jackson’s comments, she recogn ized Ben as an “Ambassador” to this city. Mark Spadoni, General Manager of the Westin spoke of how instrumental Ben was in securing the contract for the “Legends of Golf” held annually at the Westin Harbor Golf Club. State Rep. Craig Gordon brought greetings on behalf of the State of Georgia and recognized the fraternity of African American Radio Station Owners, to which Ben became a member after acquiring WSOK Radio Station. Realtor Miriam Center spoke of the days when Ben and Gloria moved to Savannah in 1972. The city was somewhat still segregated. Despite that, Ben and Gloria wanted to live in the downtown historic Savannah area. Miriam Center who described herself as a “white, Jewish, Democrat” sold them a home on Jones St. and they remained friends until the end.
Everyone knew that Ben loved golf and Brody Session, a First Tee student described Ben as a loving and caring man that will be missed. Pete Chaison, Chairman of The First Tee of Savannah spoke of Ben’s willingness to help the organization.
Rob Gibson of the Savannah Music Festival remembered Ben as “Swinging the Blues” throughout the years he knew him. He also spoke of Ben’s 75th birthday celebration and his 80th birthday celebration when Ben sat on his birthday cake. Ben displayed his love for Savannah everywhere he traveled. “You don’t have to be from Savannah to be a Savannahian” said Gibson.
Dr. Hardigan, Ben’s cardiologist made notes of his patients to get to know them. He recognized that Ben was a true force . He then requested one last standing ovation for Ben.. The entire audience rose to their feet and clapped and celebrated very enthusiastically.
Pastor Carl R. Yost delivered the sermon and remembered Ben and Gloria as “two cool Lutherans”.
Benjamin Tucker is survived by: his wife Gloria Tucker of 47 years, Wayne Tucker (son), Ivan Daly, stepson, Reuben Tucker (twin brother) and his wife Erma; nephews Desmond, David and Derrick; nieces Loretta, and Larae; Edwin Grimsley, grandson; a host of other relatives and grand children.
About Ben Tucker:
Ben Tucker was born in Brentwood, Tennessee, December 13, 1930, to parents Joseph Sullivan Tucker and Carrie Ann (Claiborne) Tucker. Ben and his first wife were the parents of Sabra (passed 1996) and Wayne Tucker who were raised in Pasadena, California. He served in the Air Force in 1952. He later married
Gloria Daly in New York (1966). She was his inspiration for one of the biggest hits in the country, he wrote for Mrs. Tucker, “Coming Home Baby.” Ben loved Gloria unconditionally based on his Christian belief, which he displayed in all aspects of his life. A successful musician, businessman, and community leader, Ben Tucker has influenced the world of jazz. He learned the fundamentals of music while in high school and entered Tennessee State University as music major.
The City of Savannah has benefited from his musical talent, knowledge, leadership and charitable skills. Ben became the owner and operator of Hard-Hearted Hannah’s, a jazz club, which opened in September 15, 1985 and closed 1993. In 1972, he purchased WSOK radio station in Savannah which became # 1 for 13 years. Mr. Tucker served on numerous boards and committees to use his influence to sustain organizations that benefited the community. Community engagement was his creed and the synergy he contributed to schools, youth organizations and adult learning, colleges, churches, and community business, was a part of his life’s work. Ben was a friend and partner to thousands.
Ben Tucker was killed Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 when a speeding car hit his golf cart after enjoying a game of golf at his second home, The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Club.
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Reflecting On Ben Tucker’s Legacy