John Garvey Bynoe, a Roxbury community activist since the age of 12, died Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009, in Cape Cod. He was 82. (Photo courtesy of the Bynoe family)
John Garvey Bynoe, a Roxbury man committed to civil rights and community activism, died Aug. 13, 2009, at his retirement home in Cape Cod. He was 82.
A community activist since the age of 12 — when he obtained signatures for his brother’s campaign to become Ward 9’s state representative — Bynoe maintained an active role in the betterment of the Roxbury community for more than 60 years.
The youngest of eight children, Bynoe was born Oct. 25, 1926, in Boston to the late John L. Bynoe and Edna (Morris) Bynoe.
He attended the Boston Public Schools, Boston University and New England School of Law, where he received his Bachelor of Law degree in 1957. In 1987, his alma mater honored him with an honorary Doctor of Law degree.
After returning from World War II, where he fought on the beaches of Normandy all the way to Berlin, Bynoe became one of the youngest veterans to lead the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 953 in Boston. After his election as commander, the post started a youth program that created “The Turkey Bowl Classic,” held on Thanksgiving Day at Carter Playground on Columbus Avenue.
Lifelong friend Kenneth J. Guscott said Bynoe had made up his mind after his military service to dedicate his life to politics.
“He was one of the many Roxbury boys that endured all the humiliations of a segregated army to fight for democracy,” Guscott recalled. “That experience gave him the drive to fight for civil rights here in Boston and the United States.”
Bynoe’s advocacy for veterans continued throughout his years of service to the Boston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
He served as chairman of the branch’s veterans’ committee in 1948. A board member for many years, he created the Boston branch’s Annual Award Dinner and served as its chairman on several occasions. Bynoe also served as chairman of the National NAACP Convention, as well as the conventions of the National Urban League and the National Business League.
Bynoe’s first job with the federal government was as a supply clerk in the regional office of the Federal Security Agency in Boston. He later became the first minority district manager in New England for the Social Security Administration, serving in that capacity from 1964 to 1966.
In 1966, he was appointed director of the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), a role in which he served until his retirement from the federal government in 1982, after 35 years of service. During his tenure at HEW, the largest number of minorities entered federal service in New England than during any other period.
Bynoe was a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and served for many years as president of the Sigma Chapter. He is a Past Master of Widow Son Lodge #28 and served for many years as legal advisor for the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. He was also a member of the board of the Prince Hall Mystic Arlington Cemetery.
In 1988, he was elevated to the 33rd degree, the highest degree in Freemasonry. In December 1998, he was elected Grand Master of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and served in this capacity through 2000.
He was the founder and director of Unity Bank and Trust Company, now Boston Bank of Commerce; a member of the board of directors of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay; the president of the Roxbury Community Council; the chairman of the board of directors of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts; the president and director of the Professional and Business Men’s Club; a member of the boards of directors of the Boston Big Brother Association, the Massachusetts Pre-Engineering Program for Minority Students, the Museum of National Center of Afro American Artists, the Greater Boston Council of Boy Scouts of America, and Resthaven Inc.; and a consultant for the Executive Service Corps of New England Inc.
Between 1969 and 1989, Bynoe owned and operated the Professional and Business Men’s Club, one of Boston’s first networking sites for African-Americans.
Bynoe leaves behind his wife of 51 years, the former Louise Granville; his sister, Ella Callendar; four children: Sandra, John, James and J. Kevin; his daughters-in-law Deborah and Lisa; six grandchildren: Monica, Joclynne, Jon, Marissa, Dante and Jordan; a great-grandson, Brycen; and many nieces, nephews and friends.
Funeral services are scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21, 2009, at 10 a.m. at the Twelfth Baptist Church, 150-160 Warren Street, Roxbury. A wake is being held Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009, at 6:30 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge in Grove Hall.