'Bad-luck' child has led KSU program to Top 5

By CHARLES PEARL State Journal Staff Writer Published:

In his home county in South Carolina, he used to lie down in a ditch as a little boy and look up as Ku Klux Klansmen would pass by on the road. As his heart pounded, he wondered, "what are these guys all about?"

Dr. Harold R. Benson, director of the Land Grant Program at Kentucky State University whose leadership and dream helped bring the aquaculture program of distinction to the campus, was a walking disaster as a child. He was his mother's "little bad-luck child." Her dream for him was that he would live beyond childhood.

At age 6, he was struck by a car along the road as he walked home from school.

"I had a large continuous abrasion from the crown of my head to my buttocks from sliding on my back down the road," he says.

Six weeks later with the healing well under way, Harold was riding behind his uncle's tractor on a four-wheel trailer when he leaned over the edge, fell under the trailer and was dragged again, peeling off the scabbed skin.

When he was a junior in high school, he was wearing Converse sneakers while mowing a neighbor's yard. A piece of rusty wire went in his foot and came out the side. He was the second oldest of 10 children and his family couldn't afford tetanus shots.

But his father, a Baptist minister, took him to the doctor to get medicine and was told if Harold should become ill, "get him back here within 30 minutes or you can take him to the funeral home," Benson recalls the story.

"We lived seven miles from town, and I started having convulsions. They put me in the car and headed back immediately to the doctor at a fast rate. Our car ran out of gas. But fortunately, a friend came along behind us. We changed cars and they got me to the hospital just in time. The only thing I recall was a nurse saying, 'Code blue, code blue.' I don't remember anything else, but thank God I made it through that."

He also survived a serious injury in his teens when he cut his arm with an ax. He had been chopping wood and was running with the ax.

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

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