Monday, November 7, 2011

Jay Wilmer Benjamin (1902-1977)

Pseudonym of Joseph Wilmer Benjamin III
Aka J. Wilmer Benjamin, J.W. Benjamin
Author and Teacher
Born October 11, 1902, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Died December 28, 1977, Ronceverte, West Virginia

Jay Wilmer Benjamin was just barely a pseudonym for Joseph Wilmer Benjamin III. He was born on October 11, 1902, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, son of a mail clerk. At age sixteen, Benjamin entered Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia where he became president of the student body, editor of the yearbook and the college newspaper, and a varsity basketball player, despite his small stature. He began his teaching career at Kimbridge High School in  Virginia and in 1925 landed a job teaching English at Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg, West Virginia. Benjamin also found a wife in Elizabeth Benjamin, who later wrote for Woman's Day and Good Housekeeping.

Benjamin's known works for the pulps are few, but two have been reprinted since his death. For Weird Tales, he wrote "The Man Who Saw Red" (Nov. 1933), "Drowned Argosies" (July 1934), "Homecoming Day" (Mar. 1936), and "Eric Martin's Nemesis" (Mar. 1937). According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, the story "The Wizardry of Ndeze" (Jungle Stories, Winter 1953-1954) as by J.W. Benjamin, was also his work. Benjamin also wrote for Blue Book and the Associated Press.

Benjamin signed his letters to "The Eyrie" as "Captain Jay Wilmer Benjamin." He later earned a promotion and was known to his students as "Colonel Ben." After retiring in 1971, Benjamin edited West Virginia Lawman and Firefighter and wrote a local history column for a newspaper. He was very active at his school, in his community, and in his church. Joseph Wilmer Benjamin III died on December 28, 1977, in a West Virginia hospital.

Jay Wilmer Benjamin's Stories and Letters in Weird Tales
"The Man Who Saw Red" (Nov. 1933)
"Drowned Argosies" (July 1934)
"Homecoming Day" (Mar. 1936)
"Eric Martin's Nemesis" (Mar. 1937)
Letters to "The Eyrie" (Mar. 1934, June 1934, Sept. 1937)

Further Reading
"Drowned Argosies" in 100 Ghastly Little Ghost Stories, ed. Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, and  Martin H. Greenberg (Barnes & Noble, 1993)
"Eric Martin’s Nemesis" in 100 Wild Little Weird Tales, ed. Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, and Martin H. Greenberg (Barnes & Noble, 1994)

Jay Wilmer's Benjamin's first story for Weird Tales, appearing in the November 1933 issue, was probably lost in the enthusiasm for C.L. Moore's debut story, "Shambleau." His next (July 1934) was among less conspicuous works, the exception being "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" by H.P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffman Price. The cover art was by Margaret Brundage.
Joseph Wilmer Benjamin (1902-1977)
Thanks to Randal Everts for the photograph and other information on Joseph Wilmer Benjamin.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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