Cornelius J.B. Chambers was born in Kissimmee on January 29, 1947. He graduated from Kissimmee High School and worked at Tarcai Farm and Garden Center before enlisting in the U.S. Army. He is Kissimmee’s only black resident to die in Vietnam and was killed on April 3, 1967, along with his entire patrol, when he stepped on a Viet Cong mine.
He was survived by his wife Brenda, an infant daughter Sonia, born a few weeks before he left for Vietnam, mother Dorothy Chambers, grandmother Louise Gibson, two brothers and three sisters. Army Specialist 4thClass Cornelius J.B. Chambers was buried with full military honors in Rose Hill Cemetery, Kissimmee.
Almost 20 years following his death, a petition was presented to the Kissimmee City Commission requesting that Benita Park, less than a block from where he grew up, be renamed to honor Cornelius. The commission agreed to the name change and the Cornelius Chambers Memorial Fund was set up to receive monetary donations for a bronze plaque, which was dedicated in March 1987. In 1994, a neighborhood center was built, which also bears his name and in October 2002, the Cornelius Chambers Festival was held in the park named for him.
Sources: “Orlando Sentinel” April 16, 1967; July 15, 1986; February 1, 1987; October 18, 2002