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Civil Rights Leader Benjamin W. Little, Sr., Dies at 81

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

 

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Benjamin W. Little, Sr., was born on April 28, 1940, in Newport, RI and he died peacefully on September 5, 2021, in Allentown, PA.

Ben graduated from Rogers High School in 1959 and served his country in both the Army and Marine Corps from 1959-1968. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1972 from Roger Williams University and a Masters Degree in Education Management from Cambridge College in 1988.

Ben is predeceased by his parents Ferdinand Douglass Little & Beatrice Delegal Little; sister, Eva Douglass Robinson; and brothers, brother, George Gray and the late John Cardoza. Ben leaves behind his wife, Juliana Crane, and the families of his daughter Anastasia Williams; sons Rego Cano, Joshua Little, Benjamin Little Jr.; Jay Alexander Little; sister Doris Little; brother Paul Cardoza; and God-children Quintin Barros Prout & Asia Darakjian. 

Benjamin began his career in equal opportunity when he joined Progress Association for Economic Development as Associate Director. He concentrated on the educational and training aspects of the association. In 1973 Ben was selected to head the Providence Human Relations Commission (PHRC).  The commission under Ben’s leadership became a large influence in Providence securing opportunities for minorities and protecting the city’s minority youths and adult workers from discrimination.  He chaired the city’s Affirmative Action Task Force and was appointed to the Governor’s Justice Commission of Standards and Goals Project.  After Ben was selected by the US Dept of Justice’s Community Relations Division to conduct a fact-finding mission in Washington and Texas on “Deadly Use of Force”, the DOJ and PHRC co-sponsored a national conference and invited experts to Providence to address police-community relations and police use of force. Ben also founded the New England Association of Human Rights Directors and sponsored an exhibit in conjunction with the Oakland Museum entitled “Black Pioneers and Contemporaries in Science and Technology.”

With the commission, Ben introduced a city ordinance that included for the first time the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Ben furthered his career when he joined the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) Division in Hartford, CT.  After receiving numerous commendations for his work monitoring fair housing and equal opportunity patterns in southern New England municipalities, Ben was selected to head the monitoring and assessment of the City of Boston.

In 1991 he became Deputy Director of the Housing Authority, Town of Greenwich.  Later he assumed the positions of Executive Director and CEO.  Under Ben’s leadership, the Housing Authority became a respected part of the Greenwich community. The Greenwich magazine published an article in June 2001 titled “Another Side of Greenwich.” The article followed Ben’s career with the Housing Authority and his mission to instill pride, self-reliance, education, and a sense of responsibility to their community.  Ben coordinated with other community organizations and launched Head Start programs in three housing complexes; arranged funding for on-site childcare; and established other programs that opened windows of opportunity for the residents and their children. The programs included an extremely successful “Resident Independence through Employment” educational program that assisted more than 350 Housing Authority residents to find jobs.  An unprecedented program Ben introduced was a “three-month educational program on homeownership, how to obtain a mortgage, and learn about the costs, responsibilities, and benefits of homeownership.”  Ben arranged for the Housing Authority to purchase six condominiums to sell them to residents who completed the program and were approved for a mortgage The article finishes with a statement from one community program director who worked with many other housing authorities, that he “knows of no executive director who has greater initiatives in affording a quality of life and creating opportunity for public housing residents than Ben Little.”

After his retirement in 2003 from the Housing Authority, Ben surprised family and friends by taking classes and producing stunning watercolor paintings.  His work was showcased in a Veteran’s exhibit in a Hartford, CT art gallery and he placed third in a Pennsylvania art fair.  His website The ArtofBenLittle.com depicts some of his works.

While fighting dementia, Ben spent the last years of his life with family in Pennsylvania. There he continued his art of bragging about all of his family members to everyone he met. Ben greeted everyone with his kind eyes and welcoming smile. He left this life full of love and pride.  

To continue the memory of this great man we ask friends and family to share their stories and memories on his website ArtofBenLittle.com.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Benjamin W. Little, please visit the floral store.

Viewing
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Bell Funeral Home, Inc.
571 Broad Street
Providence, RI 02907

Funeral Service
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
10:00 am to 11:15 am
Bell Funeral Home, Inc.
571 Broad Street
Providence, RI 02907