The Rev. Banjamin H. Whiting, 91, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Washington for 53 years, died of pneumonia Thursday at Providence Hospital.
He preached his first sermon at Friendship, one of the oldest, largest and most influential black Baptist churches in the city, on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1927, which also was his birthday. He remained pastor until his death.
Mr. Whiting was born in Washington, one of 14 children. He left school at the age of 18 to become a mail carrier in the Northwest section of the city.
Trained as a minister by the late Rev. A.j. tYler of Mount Airy Baptist Church, Mr. Whiting was licensed to preach in 1918 and ordained a year later.
He opened his own store front church, which he called the Corinthian Baptist Church. With the help of others, he took shelves from the walls and made them into pews. He drew $90 of the $91 he had in a savings account to pay the rent.
Eight years later, Mr. Whiting was called as pastor of Friendship Church. During his years there, membership grew from approximately 200 to more than 3,000.
Mr. Whiting was a former president of the Baptist Convention of Washington and Vicinty and a vice president of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.
He had served as treasurer of the chairman of the board of trustees of Washington Baptist Seminary and as the regional Mount Bethel Baptist Association.
Mr. Whiting belonged to Harmony Lodge No. 22 of the Masons and Green Mountain Lodge No. 1477 of the Oddfellows.
His first wife, Blanche Irene Whiting, died in 1970.
He is survived by his second wife, Essie M. Whiting, of Washington, and a brother, Walter, also of Washington.