Chaplain Benson Thomas from the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center (VAMC) received the J. Obert Kempson Distinguished Service Award at the 2011 Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) Southeast regional convention held in September. Chaplain Thomas is the first African-American to receive this award which is named after James Obert Kempson, who served as the chief chaplain for 47 years for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health and was the first Regional Director of the ACPE’s Southeast Region. APCE established the award in 1981 to recognize those persons who have rendered distinguished service to the Southeast Region of the APCE.
“Chaplain Thomas was quite deserving,” said Chaplain Jasper Keith, current Regional Director of the ACPE’s Southeast Region, “not only for his work with Veterans in these last few years, but he has helped us all understand the cultural impact on education and ministry.”
Chaplain Thomas began his career in 1967 as a prison chaplain in Richmond, Virginia. His work includes ministries in Alabama, Texas and Mississippi. For the last four years, in addition to his duties as VA Chaplain, he has overseen the Pastoral residency program at the VA Medical Center.
“I was in total shock when they called my name,” said Chaplain Thomas. “I thought I was being introduced to talk about Clinical Pastoral Education and they handed me this award. It was extremely humbling. This whole career, literally, has been my salvation.”