James L. Benefiel Papers and Music Instruments Added to Sousa Archives Collections

1. Original members of the WDWS radio station German Band from left to right: Russell O. Derby, Millard R. Osborne, Jack Ewing, James L. Benefiel [standing], Russell Wilson, and J.D. Bailey (ca. 1937).
2. Members of the WDWS radio station band from left to right: Richard Michael, Leonard Hays, William Baker, Jack Ewing, Clinton Osborne, Driver Linsey, Millard Osborne, Lyle Blue, James L. Benefiel [standing], Dwight Bell, Russell Wilson, Marion Gulick, Wayne Ennis, Charles Livingston, and Stanley Dallas (August 1938).
3. Former members of the Wallace Ewing Company Band and the WDWS radio station German Band performing at the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Rosetta and Wallace Ewing. Seated at the table, left to right: Mrs. William Banielson (youngest daughter of Mr. Ewing), Elmer C. Ewing (Mr. Ewing’s Brother), Mr. Wallace Ewing, Mrs. Rosetta Ewing, and E.O. Ewing (Youngest Son of Mr. Ewing). Standing left to right: Jack Ewing, Charles Livingston, Russell Wilson, Driver Lindsey, Dwight Bell, Millard Osborne, Clinton Osborne, Leonard Hays, Richard Michael, James L. Benefiel, and Lyle Blue (February 6, 1938).

The Sousa Archives recently acquired the James L. Benefiel Papers and Music Instruments which document the early history of several Urbana and Champaign, Illinois company bands that performed throughout the community for much of the twentieth century.  James L. Benefiel (September 17, 1895-June 3, 1992) was born in Hume, Illinois, but spent most of his life living in Champaign, Illlnois.  While he spent much of his professional career as a linotype operator, he was an active performing musician and band leader for many of Champaign-Urbana’s community bands.  Benefiel was a member of Wallace Ewing’s Zouave Band  from 1914 to the beginning of World War I, where he played French horn.  The Ewing Transfer Company’s band performed numerous concerts throughout the Midwest and North America between 1880 and the early 1930s.  After serving in the U.S. Navy as a Seaman First Class during World War I, Benefiel returned to the community to perform once more with the Ewing Transfer Company band but now on the soprano saxophone. After moving back to Champaign-Urbana in 1929, Benefiel became a typesetter for the News-Gazzette as well as a secretary for the News-Gazette Credit Union. Beginning in 1938 he formed the WDWS Radio German Band with three of the former members of the Ewing band and later served as the conductor for the WDWS Radio band until 1940. During WWII, Benefiel and many of the original band members of the WDWS band joined the Illinois Reserve Militia, where he directed a band under the title of the Illinois Reseve Militia. After the Militia Band was decommissioned  in 1947, Benefiel became the director of the Moose Band of the Champaign Elk’s lodge, a position that he held until 1961 when he retired.

The Benefiel Papers provide an intimate visual and textual glimpse of the musical legacies of several local company and community bands that were active in Urbana and Champaign, Illinois between 1914 and 1989.  For more information about the new collection please visit the online finding aid.

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