Jim Bennett (1940 - 2016)

Obituary
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  • "Back in the 1980s, it was my honor to perform the wedding..."
    - Peter Branum
  • "To the Bennett Family: My heartfelt sympathies go out to..."
  • "Alabama lost one of the best. Jim was a true statesman who..."
  • "Dearest Tara, you and your family are in my thoughts at..."
    - Jose' Martinez
  • "My condolence to you for your loss, may God sustain you..."
    - TS
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Former Secretary of State Jim Bennett of Birmingham, who served as President of the National Association of Secretaries of State from 1999-2000, died Wednesday, August 17, 2016, after a brief illness. A state legislator from 1978 to 1993, Mr. Bennett was twice elected to the House of Representatives from Jefferson County and elected three times to the State Senate. He left the Senate to accept appointment by former Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. in 1993 to a vacancy as secretary of state. He then became the only person ever elected Secretary of State in Alabama on both major party tickets, winning back-to-back elections in his own right to the post in 1994 and 1998: as a Democrat and as a Republican respectively. He then served as Labor Commissioner in both the Riley and Bentley administrations from 2003 to 2012. Concluding his service to the state, Gov. Robert Bentley appointed him to an unprecedented fourth term as Secretary of State in Alabama where he served from 2013 to 2015. On August 15, 2016, Gov. Bentley awarded him the Governor's Cross - only the second time Bentley has awarded this medal. As a lawmaker, he was a leading advocate of election reform and constitutional revision. He wrote many of the current day state election laws. He also chaired a number of boards and commissions during his long public service career including the Board of Trustees at Jacksonville State University, the Alabama Historic Ironworks Commission (Tannehill), the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Governor's Commission on Constitutional Reform and the Higher Education Partnership. He began his career as a newspaper reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald in 1961 where he won the American Political Science Association's Award for Distinguished Reporting of Public Affairs in 1969. Mr. Bennett also held public relations positions with Birmingham-Southern College, the Alabama Labor Council and Brookwood Medical Center. Influential in the establishment of Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in 1969, he wrote a history of the Civil War era ironworks there which was the birthplace of the Birmingham iron and steel district. The book, Tannehill and the Growth of the Alabama Iron Industry, won the Cooley Book Award from the Alabama Historical Association in 2000. He also wrote Historic Birmingham and Jefferson County, An Illustrated History which was published in 2008 and Tannehill Ironworks, Images of America, in 2011. Mr. Bennett is a graduate of Grundy County High School in Tracy City, Tennessee (1957) and held a BS from Jacksonville State University (1962) and a MS from the University of Alabama (1980). He is also a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (Epsilon Nu 1958). He is survived by his wife, Andrea Bennett, of Birmingham; two children, Don Bennett and Tara Bennett, both of Hoover; three grandchildren, Graham (Emily), of Jacksonville, Ria and Barrett Bennett, both of Hoover; one great- grandchild, Emma Ruth Bennett, of Jacksonville, and a sister, Julie Davis (Gilbert) of Chickamauga, Georgia. He was the son of the late Grover (George) Talmadge and Florence Bernice Olson Bennett of Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. Service for Jim Bennett will be Saturday, August 20, with visitation at 12 p.m. and funeral service at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1400 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, Alabama. Burial following on Sunday in Maplewood Cemetery in Pulaski, Tennessee. The family requests that in lieu of flowers Jim's friends consider donations to the JSU Foundation or Tannehill State Park. These are two institutions that were very close to Jim's heart. Burial following on Sunday in Maplewood Cemetery in Pulaski, Tennessee, Ridout's Valley Chapel, Homewood, directing
Published in The Anniston Star on Aug. 19, 2016
Arrangements under the direction of:
Ridout's Valley Chapel
1800 Oxmoor Road | Homewood, AL 35209 | (205) 879-3401
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