Navy veteran joins PineBelt NEWS team

By BETH BUNCH,

Benny J. Hornsby has traveled the world, visiting more than 100 countries during his 36 years on active duty in the Navy and Marine Corps, 18 of them at sea.

And he’s got quite a few stories to tell, which is lucky for readers of The PineBeltNEWS as Hornsby joins the newspaper as a twice-a-month columnist to share some of his memories and thoughts. His column, which previously appeared for a number of years in The Hattiesburg American will appear on the Editorial pages beginning Feb. 21.

He already knows the title of his first column: Coming Home.

A member of the Class of 1959 at Lumberton High School, Hornsby enlisted as a Seaman Apprentice and retired in 1996 as a captain (O-6). He followed in the footsteps of his father, who served during World War II.

Hornsby’s military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Combat Action Ribbon for Service in Vietnam, and the Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia. Hornsby made 55 jumps from a plane.

He also served as an active duty Navy chaplain from 1971-1996 with pastorates at Naval Station, Newport, Rhode Island, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. He has pastored Ford’s Creek Baptist Church in Poplarville, Corinth Baptist Church in Purvis, South 28th Ave. Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Round Hill Baptist, Round Hill, Va., Mount Lebanon Baptist, Mount Lebanon, Va., Tabernacle Baptist Church, Hope, R.I. and East Clairmont Baptist, San Diego, California.

In addition to his military service, Hornsby has quite the education with an associate’s degree (automotive technology), an undergraduate degree (English), six masters degrees (Sociology, Asian History, English, Psychology, Theology and Counseling, and a doctorate (ministry). He is also a graduate of a French Language School, the Institute de Francais. He is a graduate of Pearl River Community College, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Rhode Island, San Diego State University and New Mexico State University, as well as New Orleans Baptist and Fuller Theological seminaries.

“I always went to school, which is crazy,” he said. “I’m a perpetual student.”

He retired as an instructor of Sociology and chair of the Social Sciences Department at the Hattiesburg campus of PRCC, where he was selected as Humanities Teacher of the Year. He also teaches online in the Mississippi Virtual Community College, and is an adjunct faculty member at William Carey University. He served as chair of the Psychology Department and director of Institutional Research at WCU until his retirement in 2015. He currently teaches part-time –English Composition at PRCC, and sociology and world history online for Gulf Coast CC. And if that’s not enough, the 78-year-old said he also speaks in church pretty much every Sunday.

He served as president of the Mississippi Professional Educators (2012-2013), the largest teacher organization in the state with more than 10,600 members. He also taught at Sumrall and Lumberton high schools.

When he got out of the service, Hornsby decided he wanted to be a mechanic, so he went to Pearl River CC and went through their two-year auto mechanic program.

“I’m a certified mechanic,” he said. “What I was going to do was buy cars, fix them up and flip them, but my business model broke down. I buy them, fix them up and keep them.”

He collects and owns 21 cars; all but one of them are foreign models.

His only American vehicle is a Shelby Cobra, but he also owns a Citroen, several Fiats, an original Mini Cooper, a Volkswagen Beetle that he recently put a sunroof in, six Triumph Spitfires, an Austin Healy and others. He tries to drive a different one each day and tinkers on them as time permits. While teaching the auto mechanics class, he used to purchase and design car T-shirts for his students, using automobiles from his own fleet on the shirts.

While a student at PRCC, they found out I was educated, and asked if I wanted to teach the class part time, so I started that, which turned into full-time employment at the Hattiesburg Campus, ending up as chair of the social sciences department, where I taught 15 years,” he said.

Hornsby has authored three books, A Navy Chaplain’s Devotions for Afloat and Ashore, A Sailor Remembers and coming soon, Sermons from Navy and Marine Corps Chapels.

He and his wife, the former June Gallagher, who recently retired after 30 years as a professor of Education at WCU, have two children, Benjy (Oak Grove) and Jena (Purvis), both teachers. They also have four granddaughters, Ashlyn, Abby, Ryanne and Reagan. They are members of Hardy Street Baptist Church where Hornsby serves as a deacon.

“I’ve seen a little bit of everything,” Hornsby said. “I tell people that I do so many crazy things that I became a chaplain to try and make up for all of them,” he said.