Son of a Preacherman

Son of a Preacherman

by Marlene Banks

Paperback(New Edition)



A historical romance novel set in the 1920s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Son of a Preacherman depicts the highly segregated life of African Americans in the Greenwood District, in Northern Tulsa and the tensions leading up to the Tulsa Race Riots.

Billy Ray Matthias is the handsome younger son of the church’s new pastor. Benny is the daughter of an oil rich family. Billy Ray is convinced that Benny is the woman God would have him settle down with. Benny, on the other hand, recently had her heart broken. She is not the least bit interested in getting involved anytime soon. As Billy’s pursuit of Benny intensifies, so does the political and social climate in the prosperous African American neighborhood known as the Greenwood District..  

Racial tensions in Tulsa escalate when Dick Rowland, a black man, is accused by a local newspaper of raping Sarah Page, a white woman, on an elevator. Benny's brother Ethan and a radical white attorney by the name of Maynard Vaughn  despite continuous threats put their weight and energy behind helping Dick. Meanwhile, the White Glove Society, a racist group seeks to destroy not only Dick but all the African Americans in this successful black owned community. As tensions come to a head and violence breaks out, Billy and Benny are caught up in the heat of chaos. He vows to keep her safe but will Benny let him? And will faith in God be enough to sustain the people of the community as their lives are being changed forever by deadly acts of hatred?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802406187
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 06/30/2012
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 315
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

MARLENE BANKS resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Along with being a prolific writer she has an associate degree in Theology from Rhema Bible Institute in Keysville, VA and is currently studying to initiate a Christian counseling ministry. Marlene is a member of Bethel Deliverance International Church in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. Her work resume includes thirty plus years in nursing and over eight years in business as a coordinator and administrative assistant. She considers her writing a means of evangelizing and relating Christian principles through fiction. It is also Marlene¿s goal to bridge the gap between faith-based and secular literature.

Read an Excerpt


a novel
By Marlene Banks

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Marlene Banks-Benn
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8024-0618-7

Chapter One


Benny wondered if she could ever stand to the strain of greeting customers and chatting pleasantly, knowing what they were thinking.

As she considered ways of escaping the commitment she'd been pressured into, someone's loud throat-clearing interrupted her thoughts. He got her attention, and she looked into the man's crafty, widespread eyes.

"Morning, Benny, surprised to see you here. Where's your mother?" the man asked with an irritating affability.

"Good morning, Mr. Grapnel. She went to the reservation today and asked me to work in the shop for her." Her response was polite but dry.

"I need to speak to your father. Thought Ella would be here so I could find out if he's in town before I go out to the ranch."

"He's at the ranch, sir."

Grapnel frowned. "Blast it. Guess I'll have to drive on out there."

"He's awful busy. They're getting cattle ready for market. Maybe you should wait till next week," Benny suggested.

"I've got an offer on that Boxwood Flats property I know he can't refuse, and it won't wait."

"You might as well not bother, sir. You'd be wasting your time since he's already told you he won't sell it to you."

"It's not me who's buying, little gal, but a businessman from Texarkana wants it."

"My father's going to say no just the same. He's already told you he wouldn't sell one acre of land to you or your associates. So why keep coming around asking?"

Grapnel's face reddened. "Your father's a stubborn fool. If he's smart, he'll sell that piece of land while he's still got something worth selling."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Benny wanted to know.

Grapnel pointed his finger in her face. "It means you coloreds are getting too high and mighty. You better remember your place, gal. I don't care how much oil money your family's got. You might be doing well now, but that doesn't mean you always will. Things change."

"Please remove your finger from my face, Mr. Grapnel," Benny said firmly. "How dare you come here to do business and make threats! My father will never sell to you or your friends."

Grapnel's finger moved in closer. "You better watch your tongue, missy. Be careful how you talk to white folks or somebody's gonna teach the little teacher a lesson she won't forget."

Fear clamped down on Benny, but she stood her ground. "I asked you to remove your finger from my face," she reminded him.

"Why, you uppity ..." He swung his raised hand back.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, mister. The lady asked you nicely to move your hand out of her face. A gentleman would do that just as nicely as she requested," a deep voice cautioned. Grapnel's head swung to the right, and his eyes bugged at the powerful black man standing in the drugstore doorway whose eyes were pinned menacingly on him. "The best advice I can give you, sir, is to step back right now and walk away."

Grapnel withdrew his hand grudgingly, scowling at Benny. "Better watch your step, girlie," he warned as he hurried off.

Relieved but surprised by the stranger's assistance, Benny stared at the handsome man with the commanding air.

"Are you all right?" he asked, stepping closer.

"Yes. Yes. I'm fine, thank you," she replied, feeling awkward. "Thank you for your help."

"Glad to. My name's William Ray Matthias but call me Billy Ray. And you are?" He held out his hand.

Benny was staring at his remarkable good looks and large hands. The top of her head reached only to his broad shoulders. Catching herself, she answered. "My name's Benjamina, but folks call me Benny. Benny Freeman." She stretched out her arm to shake his hand. His massive grip swallowed her hand with an enthusiastic gusto that startled her.

Billy Ray took in Benny from head to toe. She was not flashy in appearance like a lot of Tulsa women he'd seen but lovely in a dignified way. She was naturally pretty with thick, dark hair braided on both sides and pinned into a knot at the nape of her neck. The style gave her a less youthful look than he would have preferred. Yet it didn't detract from her beautiful face and flawless golden brown skin. Her brown, almond-shaped eyes were appealing though they held a hint of sadness. Her figure was definitely notable in a puffy, fitted cotton blouse the color of dandelions. Her waist was belted to reveal its small size and her shapeliness. He glanced down at her feet where he saw shoes made of the shiny new-style patent leather peeking out from under an expensive-looking emerald green skirt. Everything about her seemed poised and sophisticated, and he liked what he saw.

"Did you say Freeman? We met an Earl Freeman a few days ago. Are you related?"

"He's my father."

"What a coincidence. He offered to help us get settled. Even said he'd give us a few head of cattle once our fence gets repaired. He's very generous."

Benny smiled faintly. "Yes, he is." Billy Ray's eyes were so penetrating they made her nervous. "You just moved here?" she asked, hoping to divert his stare.

"Yes, ma'am. We moved from Durham, North Carolina."

"That's funny; we're getting a new preacher from North Carolina."

"That would be my father." He beamed at her.

Benny looked back at him while taking note of his fine-looking dark skin and shiny black hair. It was cut fashionably low, but she could see the distinct waviness. Billy Ray's huge build was overwhelming, and she had to be mindful not to gawk.

"Do you work here?" he asked, breaking an uncomfortable silence.

"Sort of—this is my mother's shop. I'm just helping out today. I teach school."

She glanced out the window at a few rambunctious youth who were crossing the street on their way to school and then looked down.

"At least I did teach," she mumbled. Billy Ray started buttoning the white jacket he was wearing. "You work in the pharmacy?" she asked.

"My brother and I own it. Or at least we will once we pay off the bank. We bought it from Mr. Andrews last month. My brother's a physician and I'm a pharmacist."

"I had no idea Mr. Andrews sold this place."

"That's what everyone keeps saying. He must have kept it secret for some reason. He said he didn't want anyone to know until the sale was final and he was gone."

"I can't imagine why."

"He seemed in an awful hurry to leave here and move to North Carolina."

"He left?" Benny hadn't heard that.

"Yeah, he and his family left two days ago on the train. He told my father he felt things were getting too tense in Tulsa, which turned out well for us. It was a sweet deal because he bought our family's house in Durham. If you ask me, things are always tense when our people make money and start living successfully on our own. Same problem took place in Durham."

Benny was surprised. "He sold his house?"

"My father bought his house in Eagles Pointe since it's near the church. That's where my family and I live. My brother plans to get his own place here in Greenwood. He's not much for living out away from town. Well, actually it's not him so much as his wife, who wants to live in the city where there's more excitement and more goings-on that keep a busybody like her happy." Billy Ray chuckled. "My brother intends on setting up practice where he can see more patients and be near the hospital. I guess Eagles Pointe is too remote."

"My family lives in Eagles Pointe."

"Your father told us. Glad to know we're neighbors."

To Benny his friendly nature seemed excessive, but genuine. The school bell rang in the distance. Benny flipped the CLOSED sign hanging on the door to OPEN.

"It's time for me to get to work," she explained.

"Me too. I've got a load of boxes to unpack. Supplies came in late yesterday. I'm supposed to be putting things together with my brother, but it's nicer talking to you." The look he flashed her was flirty and bold. He walked to the door of the pharmacy and glanced back.

"Have a good day, Benny. Hope to see you again."

"I suppose you'll see me Sunday in church. Is your father preaching or is Pastor Richmond?"

"My father's giving his first sermon. I think Pastor Richmond is saying his good-byes to the congregation. He's leaving for the reservation next week."

Chapter Two

The thriving Greenwood District in northern Tulsa was a center of enterprise birthed from the strict segregationist policies in Oklahoma.

Tulsa often felt like two cities, with its distinct white and Negro populations. Negroes neither lived among whites nor were welcome to patronize their businesses. Their own allotted business district started at Greenwood Avenue and Archer Street.

However, segregationist policies that were intended to hinder the city's Negro citizens actually evolved into a flourishing, self-supporting borough of people of color independent of the resources and some of the political dictates of their opposing neighbors. Greenwood blossomed into a triumphant demonstration of communal self-reliance, economic resiliency, and astute business acumen. By the oil boom days Greenwood was complete with elegant residential homes decked with fine china, linens, and top-of-the-line furnishings. The community exhibited high quality, good taste, and affluence with over half of its population. Buildings lined the district with impressive signs atop its flourishing businesses. Even before the oil strikes, wealth and entrepreneurship spread despite the separation by the antagonistic politics of the government.

Billy Ray was thinking hard about profits and how he could increase business. He was troubled that Marshall's Drugstore, twenty blocks away, was a strong competitor and may have been the real reason Mr. Andrews sold out. Billy's determination kicked in, and he vowed not to fold up his new canopy too soon. He had never given in to stiff competition and wasn't about to start now, not after he'd invested all his savings on this venture. Soon Napoleon would put his surgical skills to work again and could funnel hospital business his way and possibly get a hospital contract, if he made the right connections. That was an edge the other apothecary might not have, he thought.

His mind was whirling with possibilities while he was looking out the wide picture window late that morning. He marveled at the respiring view across the street, starting with Elderberry's Elegant Haberdashery in a two-story brick building. Next to that was Logan's Leather Shop, where a stunning saddle sat in the window beside a pair of hand-stitched boots and matching gloves. Billy Ray had never seen such a beautifully made saddle in his life. The barbershop was on the other side of the haberdashery. Men were constantly going in and out of Mr. Moody's Barbershop. At the end of the long block was Ned Jackson's lumberyard and feed store, and not too far distant the Frisco Railroad train tracks could be spotted.

The opposite end of the block housed the impressive Northside Executive Building where accountants, doctors, and lawyers had offices. The North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company rented the entire first floor, displaying its new flashing electric sign, which lit the intersection every night. Billy Ray noticed a great deal of activity with people going and coming all day. Fine automobiles lined the streets in front of businesses that were clearly growing.

Lifting the last box from the windowsill to the counter, he felt encouraged by the bustling sight. "There's a lot going on around here," he called to his brother.

Napoleon entered from the back. "I'm not surprised. That's why they call this the Negro Wall Street. We're blessed to be here where prosperity is so prevalent."

"I think buying this place was a smart move. We're bound to establish ourselves and make a good living."

Napoleon smiled. "I see you're already establishing yourself with the locals, in particular the young ladies."

"For your information that particular young lady is Mr. Freeman's daughter."

"You don't say." Napoleon was grinning as he rolled a barrel to the end of the counter.

"Don't get that mind of yours going the wrong direction," Billy Ray warned.

"She looked kind of cute from what I could see in here but not as pretty as Thelma Pettigrew," Napoleon said, looking sideways to see his brother's reaction.

"I knew sooner or later you would bring her up."

"Why not? She is expecting you to send for her, isn't she?"

"Well, she shouldn't, and if she is, that's her mistake. I made it clear she shouldn't have any further expectations about us whatsoever. I told her she needed to forget about me. She needs to get courted by someone in Durham." Billy Ray was adamant.

"Not such a good move, you abandoning her after everyone thought you were an item and getting married."

"I can't help what other people thought. I never once hinted I wanted to marry Thelma. That was all in her head, not mine ... and your wife's."

"Don't you think it's time you did settle down? You're not so young, little brother."

"When God presents me with the right woman, I will settle down. Until then I'm enjoying being single."

"You said that when you were twenty-seven. Four years later and you're singing the same tune. The folks are beginning to worry about you."

"No need to worry about me. I'm doing just fine." Billy Ray's voice tightened.

"You'll be thirty-two soon and still acting loose and flighty with the ladies. You should pick a wife, settle down, and start a family."

"I should do what my spirit leads me to do, not what you say. This may come as a shock since you think you're so smart, but God knows more than even you, Nappy."

"You think God doesn't want you to get married and have a family?"

"Look, that's fine if that's His plan for my life. It might have been that way for you, but it's not the same for everybody."

"Then what is your plan? Tomcatting around with women, breaking hearts till you're old and gray?"

"I don't tomcat or break hearts. That's not what I do."

"Oh no?"

"No. I like meeting people and I especially like meeting interesting young ladies. And I don't toy with their affections the way you're saying. I'm friendly, but honest about the relationship from the start, and I don't mislead anyone. Is it my fault most of the women in Durham over sixteen are in such an all-fired hurry to latch on to a husband?"

"It doesn't look right for a preacher's son to be so footloose."

Billy Ray frowned. "Didn't you say you have a meeting with the head of surgery at the hospital?"

"Not until four o'clock this afternoon. I'm changing my clothes before I go, but don't change the subject."

"The subject is over," Billy Ray growled.

Napoleon's slender frame hopped up on a stool. "Phoebe told me that Thelma's one distraught woman over you. I see a pattern here, don't you? I know you don't deliberately set out to hurt anyone, but you might hold back on your um ... friendly nature with the interesting ladies if you don't intend on following through."

"Phoebe exaggerates. Thelma seemed fine the last time I saw hen She said she understood everything and even wished me well in Tulsa."

"I'm sure she did, but then she went home and had a terrible fit, smashing her mother's china and throwing the cat out the upstairs window. They said she was so loud the neighbors heard her screaming obscenities about you. It took a sedative from Dr. Proctor to calm her down, and even then she was talking crazy. Her parents were thinking about sending her to a mental hospital in Raleigh because she was so inconsolable. It doesn't sound like she took it well to me."

"Thelma's fine, just a bit overdramatic at times." Billy Ray never looked up from checking the pharmaceutical list.

"A bit overdramatic—is that all you have to say?"

"What else am I supposed to say? I never lied to the girl. I made my intentions clear from the beginning. I wasn't in love with her and never said I wanted to get married. I let Thelma and every other woman I've kept company with know just where I stood. I gave them respect and companionship, asking nothing but the same in return, no love and never ever marriage."

"Thelma was in love with you and everyone knew it. You had to have seen it. When a woman gets attached to a man ..."

"Can we drop this conversation?" Billy Ray suggested, interrupting Napoleon. "I don't want to talk about Thelma or my romantic life anymore." He looked out the window just in time to catch Benny walking past. She was moving fast, but her movements were gracefully inviting. Something stirred inside him at the sight of her. He turned around to see his brother watching him with his disapproving scowl.


Excerpted from SON OF A PREACHERMAN by Marlene Banks Copyright © 2012 by Marlene Banks-Benn. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

I had the opportunity to review another book by Marlene Banks titled Ruth's Redemption a while back. When I heard about Son of a Preacherman, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy.

Once again, Marlene took me on a journey that I won't soon forget. Taking a look at the tumultuous and violent times in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early 1920's was a real eye opener.  What I especially enjoyed was reading this story from the perspective of the black population. So often, I think we get a very one sided and incomplete version of events, and I believe this story is a realistic and heart wrenching account of some very unfortunate events.

The characters were believable, lovable and so transparently human. This is not a fluffy look at a "perfect" pastor's family and the members of their congregation. They struggled with everyday wants, thoughts and desires, and their lives were far from perfect. They experienced the good along with the bad, and the way they dealt with the trials in their lives is a true inspiration.

In my opinion, Marlene Banks is an author to watch. She is an exceptional writer, and she tackles some controversial topics that many would prefer not to talk about.  I highly recommend this book and look forward to seeing what this author comes up with next.

By Janet Hovis


This was a great book as far as the characters being real --and the historical background was unusual for a romance novel...Absolutely loved the situations they found themselves in and enjoyed this read very much! 

Full Review

First of all, let's be real.

Seems like every romance novel that tackles a historical romance is full of languid descriptions of the main characters' dresses, long flowing (pick your color) hair and sitting room room furnishings.

While Son of A PreacherMan has some of all that, it really took me down a road that was far less traveled in the historical romance genre. That is, the author took the reader into a story that offered solid historical references about the African-American experience in the United States, and offered a glimpse into an extremely interesting time and place.

Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the story fools you into thinking this is all about a romance between the Son of a PreacherMan, Billy Ray, and a young woman named Benny (short for Benjamina).  But this story is a well woven tale that involves several families, their hopes and dreams, their devotion and love for each other and clearly their strong faith in Jesus Christ. 

But, what I liked most about this book, was the flaws that each character carried along the story with them.  These were real people, real problems and not once did the circumstances strike me as fiction (although yes, I realize it's fiction).  They all were caught in what real life offers us -the good and the bad-  and while the romance works out in the end, it certainly was a battle to get through, given the individuals needs of propriety while trying to pray through what life handed them.

I liked the dance between all of the characters, sometimes providing a complex moment of thought provoking think the situation out.  I didn't like "joining" in the meetings of the White Glove folks, but I realize it was a necessary evil to get to a latter part of what happens in the story.  I found the whole dealings with "those people" distasteful and disconcerting...and I guess that was the whole point.

This was an excellent source of the fictionalization of historical events that were happening in this time period.  I actually felt I was there, walking alongside each person, feeling their hurts and celebrating their victories, albeit sometimes small ones, and I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys unexpected twists and turns while on their field trip at the museum.

By Marina Rojas

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Son of a Preacherman 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
alekee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story takes place in Tulsa OK, and is based on historical fact. It takes place in Greenwood, an oil rich area, mostly inhabited by people of African American decent. They were despised by some White people, because of their jealousy and racial hatred. From what I understand about this 1921 point in history was kind of swept under the rug.The main characters in the book are the Freeman family, who own an oil rich ranch in Greenwood. Their Son Cord runs the operation and has [according to his family] made a poor choice of a wife. Their other son Ethan, is a well respected lawyer, and their sister Benny is trying to find her way. She was very much in love with an older man, when the unthinkable happened.The other family is Reverend Matthias, his wife and son's...Dr Napoleon, and Billy Ray.When Billy Ray and Benny meet...sparks fly, but they have a lot of strife and tribulation to over come, if they are ever going to get together.Another good page turner by Marlene Banks, I really enjoyed her Ruth's Redemption.I received this book from Tywebbin Virtual Tours, and Moody Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review
gaele More than 1 year ago
This is a book that speaks on so many levels, with beautiful detail and description delivered in a smooth, near-conversational style.   While the book feels like it will be simply about the romance of two people in the midst of turmoil and prejudice; but it envelops several different families, and details their lives, dreams and struggles in the segregated and tense times leading to the Tulsa Race Riots  of 1921.  While the romance between Billy and Benny is sweet and almost tentative: he knows that she is the woman for him, she is guarded and unwilling to take a chance on the new preacher’s son, and the interaction between the two is a sweet dance that slowly melts her reserve.  Throughout the book, Ms. Banks manages to portray the tension and the tone of the times: the attitudes toward blacks, women, and even the positive and negative effects of the religion on the attitudes and actions of the townspeople.  She pulls no punches, the language and attitudes are harsh, the violence is brutal. And every last word has the reader transfixed, to see what will happen next.  Seamlessly interweaving the historical facts with bits of fictionalization to fit the events into the story she has crafted, this book manages to deliver a history lesson as it entertains. After you put the book down, you then realize it has informed your views on race and segregationist behaviors, as well as have you questioning why you have never heard of these riots before.  What I can say is that this book far exceeded any possible expectation I could have had for it, and did so with such grace and elegance in presenting characters that seemed to step from the pages, as real and three dimensional as you or I.  A spectacular read with a little something for everyone.  I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
This story takes place in Tulsa OK, and is based on historical fact. It takes place in Greenwood, an oil rich area, mostly inhabited by people of African American decent. They were despised by some White people, because of their jealousy and racial hatred. From what I understand about this 1921 point in history was kind of swept under the rug. The main characters in the book are the Freeman family, who own an oil rich ranch in Greenwood. Their Son Cord runs the operation and has [according to his family] made a poor choice of a wife. Their other son Ethan, is a well respected lawyer, and their sister Benny is trying to find her way. She was very much in love with an older man, when the unthinkable happened. The other family is Reverend Matthias, his wife and son's...Dr Napoleon, and Billy Ray. When Billy Ray and Benny meet...sparks fly, but they have a lot of strife and tribulation to over come, if they are ever going to get together. Another good page turner by Marlene Banks, I really enjoyed her Ruth's Redemption. I received this book from Tywebbin Virtual Tours, and Moody Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review.