Benjamin Nathaniel Baldwin, affectionately known as “Daddy Ben,” was one of the first African American businessmen in Chapel Hill, NC to have a prominent business located on Franklin Street. Ben’s Snack Bar was established in the early 1950’s and for over a decade he served his famous burgers and malts to every family, and no person was considered a stranger to him! My grandfather, and my son’s namesake, “Daddy Ben” inspired all of his children, grandchildren, and his friends to always strive to do their best at whatever they did. He led by example, raising four daughters and seven grandchildren while running his family business, distributing the Carolina Times daily, volunteering at the church, and helping local kids and his friends repairs cars and bicycles. He was loved and respected by many, often being recognized by community organizations and businesses for his contributions. My grandfather taught me, and everyone he came into contact with, that through hard work, determination, and effort anything was possible. Daddy Ben was born in Chatham County around 1917. He later married my grandmother, Clara, who we called “Grandma Clara.” The two of them spent their lives helping those in the neighborhood as well as the local community. Cooking and preparing food was a mainstay in their household, and everyone was always invited to eat. I think at some point in time everyone in Chapel Hill had eaten in Grandma Clara’s and Daddy Ben’s kitchen. The story was always told that Dean Smith ate at her table! My grandfather passed away in 1985 after a long battle with illness. He was a strong man, even in death, and would not show effects of his sickness. I wish my son would have had the opportunity to experience Daddy Ben as we all did over the years, but the tradition continues and Nate “Bubba” Horton has all of the characteristics of his great grandfather, who they say we look like. Daddy Ben has inspired many people but none more so than me! I learned from him, as he helped me fix my bicycle. He showed me the difference between doing it myself and depending on others to do it for me. He is where my drive to be successful came from, and without his guidance and my father’s leadership, I would not be here today to carry on his legacy. “Daddy Ben’s” represents more than a malt shop or grill. It is a piece of North Carolina history, and an even more important piece of our family history.
“We love you Daddy Ben!”
Benjamin Nathaniel Baldwin 1917-1985