by Karen Alberg Grossman
james benton
James Benton

On behalf of everyone in the menswear industry, MR is greatly saddened to report the death of James Benton on Tuesday, May 16 in Memphis, Tennessee. He died from cancer at age 55.

A well-loved industry executive and entrepreneur, James was famous for his kindness, his charm and his sense of humor. Friends used phrases like “a true gentleman,” “a prince among men,” “a class act” and “a beautiful caring soul” to describe him.

James’ career in menswear dates back a decade, and includes being sales director at Wellenstyn from 2006-2010, sales director at Hawke, founder of Ben Walker outerwear with Ben Olia, founder of James Benton Group, a multi-brand showroom, and stints at EFM (Engineered for Motion) and Triluxe. Wherever he worked, he made good friends and inspired us all with his low-key style and passion for life.

Says his fiancée and true love Lizette Chin: “The menswear industry welcomed James with open arms about 10 years ago and he was forever grateful. He loved the people he met through his work, both on the trade show floor and on the road. He loved sharing stories of his basketball days and of his beloved Minnesota Vikings. He was the love of my life and I’m happy that the industry I love loved him back.”

After his courageous 20-month battle with cancer through which he amazed us all with his grace and positivity, James left many heartbroken friends and colleagues. Says MR‘s fashion director Michael Macko, “James was funny and smart, liked to gamble and make silly faces with phone apps. He was tall and good-looking and madly in love with Lizette.”

Says MR‘s previous fashion director William Buckley, “He was such a great guy- always had a smile for me and a nice thing to say. Always charming, suave, handsome, funny and just so friendly. What a truly wonderful man. He and Lizette could light up a room!”

Adds Ken Giddon, co-owner of men’s retailer Rothmans: “This photo of him says so much–handsome, rugged, funny and casting a long shadow. His courage and optimism through this struggle was incredible. We were all lucky to have him in our lives.”

On a personal note, I first got to know James on a long flight to Las Vegas at a time when I was struggling with my daughter’s drug addiction. James talked me off a ledge and helped me view life from a more spiritual perspective. He showed much wisdom and compassion and I am forever in awe of his ability to empathize. I believe he was studying to be a life coach and I’m sure he would have made a great one.

In addition to his fiancée Lizette, James is survived by his parents, Sylvia Benton and James Walker Benton Sr., his sister Carole Vorder-Bruegge, his niece Morgan Vorder-Bruegge, and nephews Frederick Vorder-Bruegge and Shelby Edwards.

Details of the memorial service to be held in Memphis to follow.

RIP James- a bright light who gave so much to all of us. You will not be forgotten.