He*was 96 years young.
Billie Banks, along with a host of amazing Black men who settled with their families in the Jasper Parish Housing Projects in the late fifties and early sixties,* raised their children and set examples of resilience, respect and love. *
On October 5 we celebrated* his life, and what will surely be * a grand* reunion of the unsung heroes /Black Rock Fathers, who transitioned before him, among them : Mr. Morris, Mr. Druitt, Mr. West, Mr.* Jackson, Mr. Garmon, Mr. Jones, Mr. Fair, Mr. Ross, Mr. Milliner, Mr.Jaycox, Mr. McKinney, and others.
-From Texas to Buffalo-
Billie Banks was born September 11, 1925 in Henderson, Texas to* Ruth Mosley and John Edward Banks. As a young child, he was courted by Hollywood scouts to come to California to try out for a role in “The Little Rascals” movies, but his beloved, protective grandmother, Mama Louise, refused to let anyone take him away.*
Billie grew up in the Jim Crow South and attended Henderson Negro High School where he was a star athlete and played football. He graduated from Henderson High, a major accomplishment during those days, and was offered a scholarship to Jarvis College in Texas. Billie played semi-professional football and baseball, earning him the nickname, “Billie Bye Bye” for his awesome speed.*
As a young man, he opted to “go for the money,” moved to Buffalo, New York in the forties, and took a job on the New York Central Railroad as a chef.*
Billie was drafted to fight in the Korean War, where he served his country as a Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army. He earned the United Nations Service medal, the Korean Service Medal and Bronze Star/Combat Infantry Badge after being wounded, in the war.* He was honorably discharged in1952.
*He married his high school sweetheart, and former cheerleader, Eula B. Banks, who’s favorite cheer of encouragement was “That’s alright boys, fight on!”*
They had seven children: Barbara (Alnisa), Charles Ray, Sharon (deceased), Yvonne, Bryant, Billie Ruth and John Edward.
*As a struggling young family, he moved from the Railroad to work at the Carborandum Plant in Niagara Falls. He then went* on to work for American Standard/ American Radiator, where he often told the story of being* fired* for being a “Smart Negro.”* After that he worked whatever jobs he could find* , including a maintenance man at the old Deco restaurant, until landing a “good job” at General Motors. There Billie worked as a machinist and Manufacturing Supervisor. While employed he earned a Certificate in Labor Relations Leadership through Cornell University. He retired from GM in 1992.
Pop and Daddy-O as he was affectionately known,* was a strict disciplinarian, and* along with his beloved wife, dedicated his entire life to raising six successful children.*
An advent reader and writer, he was politically active in his community* and served as tenant council president.
During his retirement he* volunteered his services to work as the editorial cartoonist for the family newspaper, The Challenger, as well as distribution manager for * 25 years.*
In 2017* Legislator Betty Jean Grant* presented him with a proclamation declaring* September 11* as Phenomenal Father Billie Banks Day in the County of Erie.
Later in life he adopted the quintessential* African name* Mujahid, which means “Warrior.” * He* bestowed the name Ikenga, meaning inner sprit upon his beloved wife and soul mate Eula.
A true jazz and blues fan, he loved good music. He loved to laugh and dance (well into his mid 90’s). And he loved us.
We, his children, * are eternally thankful to “Daddy-O” for keeping our family together. We* thank him for all the sacrifices he made. We thank him for his grace, * mercy and forgiveness for our age-appropriate behaviors. He never turned his* back on us and he was* always supportive. Billie Banks was the greatest dad in the world!
He* leaves behind to cherish his beloved memory: three sons, Charles Ray (Wanda) of Atlanta; Bryant (Kim Ferrill), and John (Lisa); three daughters, Barbara (aka Alnisa), Yvonne, Billie (Kym);* two brothers, Raymond* Thompson (Sarah) and Robert Thompson* of California; a host of grandchildren: Leah, Shola, Celeste, Marcus, Phyllis, Bryant, Kita, Sharon, Aaron, Kristin, Candace, Cameron, Kendil, Shatoya, John Edward II and LaJonna;* * great grand children – Sanaa, Damir, Phoenix, Justin, Tyrell, Bryant III, Tamryn, Nyree, Jamere, Javon, Nakia, Corbin, Isiah and Jada Rose;* great-great grandchildren: Justice and Mia; niece Kismet “Binkey,” nephews* Kevin and Kent Sean; a dear friend* Ernestine Wilkinson;* grand puppy “Bucket” and an extended Black Rock family.* Billie was predeceased by his wife of 50 years Eula B.; daughter, Sharon; mother Ruth and father, John Edward Banks.* * *
The family would like to thank everyone who played a part in easing our pain during this home going celebration. Your display of love and acts of kindness will never be forgotten.