Houston-area pastor, who made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, passes away

A Houston area pastor who holds a world record has passed away at the age of 94. It was in his Texas City church where history was made.

Reverend Dr. D.N. Benford Sr. stood in his pulpit every Sunday for more than 70 years, preaching his way into the Guinness Book of World Records.

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He made history because his voice has echoed through the Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Texas City for decades, more than 73 years in fact. But on Easter Sunday 2024, Reverend Benford preached his last sermon in the sanctuary. And just last week, the 94-year-old died.

"It’s just unbelievable," says his daughter Mokysha Benford while choking back tears.

"It’s been difficult for me. I know he’s lived a beautiful life," adds his daughter, Yolanda Proctor.  

Part of Pastor Benford’s big accomplishments? Landing in the Guinness Book of World Records for pastoring the same church longer than anyone else in the world.

"His reaction to that was heartfelt. He was overcome with emotion," Mokysha explains.

Reverend Benford has pastored Rising Star since he was just 20-years-old and six years before that? "He preached his first sermon on December 25, 1944, when he was 14-years-old," says his son Thomas Benford.  

Rev. Benford’s congregation flowed far beyond the doors of the church. 

"He was known at times for putting the megaphones on his van telling the community to go vote," explains Proctor. 

"He was highly involved with helping to clothe the needy, feed the needy, helping people, connect ends when their own ends weren’t long enough," Thomas explains.  

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He would even board the church bus to take families and kids on field trips and vacations.

"He would drive the bus. My mother would drive the car," smiles the pastor’s daughter, Toni Benford Relf.

"We’ve been as far as Detroit. We went to California on that bus," Thomas and Toni said while reminiscing.

"He did all of that for all the children, because he knew children were so important," says Proctor. 

"He showed us, he was the embodiment of how we ought to live," UT Austin grad Mokysha explains. She also holds a Master's Degree and Doctorate.

"He really gave us a great foundation for living, not just a church life, but a productive life in society as well," adds Thomas Benford, who is a graduate of Rice University and Harvard Business School. He says it’s thanks to an amazing mom and a dad, who led by example, served selflessly and fought for positive change. 

"He was always someone who was an innovator. He would give wise counsel to a lot of people. He was helping to perpetuate a generation that accomplished so much, that lived through so much change, being born during depression times, segregation, 1930 America."

Pastor Benford’s covered chair will remain that way in the pulpit for 30 days. A seat he no longer needs, because he has now joined his wife who passed in 2020, in a place where his kids say they are confident he was greeted by God with these words.

"Well done, good and faithful servant."

Reverend Benford’s homegoing service will be held at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Texas City on Saturday at 11 a.m.