Just one week before he died, Access Press founder, editor, and publisher Charlie Smith asked Tim Benjamin to take over as editor of Access Press in case Charlie was unable to return to the job. Charlie and the Access Press Board of Directors had previously agreed that Tim would be the first choice to take on the job. Charlie had known Tim for many years, and had recently hired Tim to work at the paper on a part-time basis. So, who is Tim Benjamin? I talked with Tim and asked him to tell our readers a little bit about himself.
Tim was injured the summer of 1974 in a diving accident. At the time, Charlie’s father, Bill Smith, was the vice president of the bank where Tim’s family did their banking. Tim’s father became close to Bill, and Tim can still remember his dad telling him about this guy at the bank whose son had injured himself in an accident similar to Tim’s and “was doing great.” Bill became a mentor to Tim’s father, teaching him “how to be the father of a Quad.” In 1975 Tim met Charlie in rehab over at the University of Minnesota. To Tim, Charlie was “the veteran,” and it seemed to Tim that Charlie knew everything there was to know about “how this disability thing worked.” So, Tim began watching the veteran.
After a brief period of activism in the disability community during the early ’70s, Tim took a 15-year break from activism. He began to learn about computers at St. Paul Technical College in 1986, with additional training later on at the Courage Center. In 1996 Tim began his studies at Metro State University in the technical writing program, earning honors for writing poetry. (“Not exactly technical writing,” Tim notes.) After realizing that his real interest was in Social Science and Government, Tim moved into the Social Science program, and now has only a couple of semesters to go to get his B.S. in Social Science, with a minor in Philosophy.
In the mid-1990s Tim decided to get active again, which led him to make a fateful call to “the veteran,” who was now the editor of Access Press Charlie Smith.
Tim says that Charlie was one of the few who had encouraged him to stay in school. In late 1999, Charlie suggested that Tim start coming with him to meetings of the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). In January of this year, Charlie hired Tim as advertising sales manager for Access Press. As Charlie’s illness got worse, we got to talking about what had to happen in case Charlie did not recover sufficiently to come back to the job. That’s when Charlie suggested that Tim might be the first editor in the post-Smith era. The board approved, and the official hiring took place on April 17th.
Over the next few months, Tim will be teaming up with me to learn the “tools of the trade,” and get to know some of the many advocates and supporters of Access Press with which Charlie had such strong relationships over the years. Tim is well aware of the strength and value of the foundation that Charlie has put in place for the paper, and states that his goal is to get to know the “WWCD” of the job: “What Would Charlie Do?”
We invite all of the readers of Access Press to drop by the office and introduce yourself to Tim, and offer him your thoughts about the paper. In the coming months he will be counting on all of the friends and supporters of Access Press to offer ideas and encouragement as he works to carry on the legacy of Charlie, Bill, and Renee Smith.