Rev. Dr. Silvester S. Beaman honored as Niagara Falls High School Distinguished Alumni

·4 min read

May 14—It was January 3.

Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman, and his wife Renee, were in the bedroom of their Wilmington, Delaware home. Beaman, a native of Niagara Falls and a Falls High School grad, was still in his pajamas when his cell phone rang.

The caller was then President-elect Joe Biden.

"He asked, 'What are you doing on January 20?' " Beaman said. "And I had to think for a minute, What's going on that day?"

Then Beaman put the man he had known for more than 25 years on his phone's speaker so Renee could hear him.

"He said, 'I want you to close out my inauguration. Would you do my benediction?' " Beaman said of Biden's request.

His wife could hardly believe what she had heard.

"I mean, he is in the bedroom in his pajamas and I'm jumping up and down, but trying not to make too much noise," Renee Beaman said. "I guess after 45 years (with her husband), I was surprised, but not surprised."

Beaman called the moment "surreal."

"For him to have selected me was such a great honor," he said.

Now that honor will be memorialized across the Niagara Falls School District. A picture of Beaman delivering a prayer to conclude the inauguration the 46th President of the United States will hang in every school in the district to commemorate the pastor's selection as Niagara Falls High School's 2021 Distinguished Alumni.

Beaman is the 19th alum to receive that honor.

A beaming Falls Schools Superintendent Mark Laurrie told a crowd in the high school's performing arts center on Thursday, where Beaman was honored, "All I want to say is (Beaman) went to Niagara Falls High School. That's all I care about. He went to Niagara Falls High School. You too can do this if you go to Niagara Falls High School."

The pastor for the past 28 years at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Beaman boasts of his life in the Falls and his time in the public schools here. The fifth child in a family of nine kids, his family moved around the city so Beaman spent time at the Beach Avenue, Hyde Park, 10th Street and 17th Street elementary schools.

He attended both North and South Junior Highs, before graduating from NFHS in 1978. After receiving his masters and doctorate degrees in divinity, he and Renee headed to a church in Hamilton, Bermuda where both their daughters were born.

"We've been on a journey," Renee Beaman said.

When the family arrived at Bethel AME Church, one of the first people they met was Biden, then a U.S. senator representing Delaware.

"My church is one of the more progressive churches (in Wilmington) so a lot of public figures came to meet me," Beaman said. "If you know Joe, he meets you and that Irish charm takes over and we became very good friends."

Beaman said he also became a good friend of Biden's oldest son Beau, who came to meet him when he ran for the post of attorney general in Delaware.

"His dad told him, 'You gotta meet Pastor Beaman'," Beaman said.

When Beau Biden was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Beaman said they would pray together. Later, Beaman would take part in Beau Biden's funeral.

Three days after Biden asked Beaman to say the benediction at his inauguration, rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the president's election. In the aftermath of the insurrection, the capitol was surrounded by fences and razor wire to protect the inauguration.

But Beamon said those dark imagines did not take away from the installation of his close friend as the president of the United States.

"Despite the insurrection, that experience on the 20th was unbelievable," Beamon said. "We felt a sense of unity and that we were going to move forward as a country. I felt, and still do, that the right man came into the presidency at the right time."

Despite the celebrity that has attached to him from his role at the inauguration, Beaman remains grounded in the Falls. When asked to return for the distinguished alumni ceremony, Beamon inquired if he could "go to Viola's."

Laurrie made sure to present Beamon with a gift certificate to the popular 17th Street sub shop. And when Beaman asked for a copy of the picture that will hang in the city schools, Laurrie told him the one unveiled on the performing arts center stage was for him.

"That picture is glorious," the pastor said., "This, and Viola's, this was worth coming home."

Beaman told those in attendance at the ceremony that as he rose to spoke at the inauguration, he remembered the "role of Niagara Falls" in his life.

"The last words to be spoken at the inauguration would be from me, from Niagara Falls, New York," Beaman said. "I was determined to represent you the best I could. And I did make you proud."