Former Judge Benson featured in ‘Crossing the Line’



The Honorable Richard Benson is known for his work on the bench of the Supreme Court of Guam, the Superior Court of Guam and the Supreme Court of the Federated States of Micronesia. He has since retired.

However, little is known about his life in South Carolina, where racism was deeply rooted. He moved with his family to Greenville, South Carolina and tried to change that “way of life”. This is the story told by someone who was affected by their actions.

“Crossing the Line, A Memoir of Race, Religion, and Change” is a charming story of a young man who comes of age in a racialized society, the search for truth, the ability to transform for the better and the importance of family and community.

Once upon a time in Greenville, South Carolina, a young black boy named Richard “Ricky” Abercrombie. He accepted everything he was taught until he was a teenager. Then he started to think about the logic behind certain customs and beliefs.

In the 60s, Greenville was his world, which was black and white with no gray areas. Whites lived in one neighborhood and blacks in another.

People knew not to “cross the line” as it could mean a brutal beating or worse. To Ricky, the social laws of segregation made no sense.

At 14, he also began to question what he had been told about God and religion. Why did so many church teachings seem to defy logic? He began to think that God was made like Santa Claus, something that adults invented for children to obey.

In his frustration, Rick began to rebel by drinking alcohol, skipping school, failing in class, gambling, and being disrespectful to everyone. Until the day he was invited to a birthday party for a friend of his. The craziest thing was that although his friend was black, the party was in a white neighborhood.

He had to cross the neighborhood color line to get to the birthday party and was very worried about it. He finally reached the house where the party was being held and knocked on the front door. The front door opened.

Richard benson

Richard Benson and his wife, both white, warmly greeted Ricky and invited him into the living room. He had only been in a white person’s house a few times before as a service clerk, but had always been allowed in through the back door and was only allowed in the kitchen.

He was amazed at what he saw in the living room – blacks and whites socializing together as friends – and his heart melted in the mind he felt in that room that day.

After that night, Ricky was invited to Bahá’í briefings, which he enthusiastically attended. Her heart was opened and her love for God, her joy for life and her respect for her neighbor were renewed. His alcohol consumption and delinquency came to an end.

His father and mother were very concerned about his new religious interests and his association with integrated groups, but they were also curious about what had prompted their son to change his behavior for the good so quickly.

Ricky continued his quest, albeit with hesitation at first, followed by enthusiasm as he gained a better understanding of his purpose in life. We encourage you to read this inspiring brief.

Florence Cornwell wrote this “Crossing the Line” book review, which mentions former Superior Court Judge Richard Benson as having a central role in the author’s life. Cornwell, a former ESL teacher who taught for about 23 years in Guam, has known Benson for two decades and is his neighbor in Chalan Pago-Ordot. “I think Judge Benson needs this story to be told,” Cornwell said. You can buy the book on Amazon.


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