Dr. Benjamin F. Speller, Jr., former archivist, long-time preservationist, and the first North Carolina Central University Dean of Library Sciences, has played a vital role in the preservation of African American history and culture in North Carolina. Dr. Speller's advocacy, vision, leadership and preservation provided the early inspiration and foundation for the creation of the state's African American Heritage Commission.
Dr. Speller served as Dean of the NCCU School of Library and Information Sciences between 1983 and 2003. In 1984, he established the African American Resources Program in the School of Library and Information Sciences. In partnership with the North Carolina Center for the Study of Black History, an African American Archival Collection was established in 1985. In 1998, the archival collection was moved to UNC-Chapel Hill Manuscripts Department as a joint African American Research Archive. This collaborative archival project is viewed by the national archival, historical, and humanities communities as a pioneering model for preservation of African American documentary resources.
An avid historic preservationist, Dr. Speller has served on the Board of Directors of nearly all of the state's historic preservation organizations. He served as president of the St. Joseph's Historic Foundation (1986-1994) during the initial renovation of the Education Building of the Historic St. Joseph's AME Church complex and proposed the current name of this community facility, the Hayti Heritage Center of Durham. He served as president of the Historic Stagville Foundation; President of the Historic Preservation Society of Durham; President of the Historic Hope Foundation and is current program chair of the African American History Committee, Windsor, North Carolina. He served on the Board of Directors of the Historic Preservation of North Carolina; and served on its Executive Committee, and was one of its representatives on the Board of Directors of the Bellamy Mansion of Decorative Arts in Wilmington. He is the charter chair of the North Carolina African American Network for Historic Preservation which was found March 1998 through the efforts of a state-wide taskforce of the State Historic Preservation Office, North Carolina Department of Archives and History. He was a member of the state's National Register Advisory Committee and the State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB). He is also a long-time member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In recognition of his many contributions, he received the 1998 Ruth Coltrane Cannon Award, North Carolina's most prestigious Preservation Award.
Dr. Speller has received a variety of additional honors: Distinguished Services Award (1971), Elizabeth City State University; Distinguished Alumni Award in Library Science (1986), Indiana University; listed in Who's Who in America 1987; and the Road Builders Award (1997), North Carolina Library Association.
Dr. Speller currently spends most his time as a volunteer in Edenton, North Carolina where he serves as a member and secretary of the Edenton Historical Commission. He also serves as Chair of its History and Legends Taskforce. He is President of the Friends of the Museum of the Albemarle and is a Columnist for the Elizabeth City Daily Advance Newspaper.
[Adapted from biography submitted by the honoree.]