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Mr. Julian Bennett, 84 passed home to Heaven on Sunday, October 27, 2013, at Bay Medical Center, surrounded by his family.
Mr. Bennett was preceded in death by his wife Agatha Bennett who he was married to for 58 years and sons, Dayton Clark and Joseph Walter Bennett; parents, Mr. Ralph Bennett and Elmo Bullock Bennett and brother Donald F. Bennett.
He is survived by his sons and daughter-in-laws; Mike Bennett and wife Liz, Neel Bennett and wife Janie; Derrick Bennett and wife Angela, and Kim Bennett Luvchuk; thirteen grandchildren; Audrey, Kali, Mallory, Taylor, Mary Beth, Rylee, Grace, Sam, Michaela, Ginny, Zac, Isabel and Julian Jr. He is also survived by nephews Richard Bennett, Sanna Bennett Webber, Eric Bennett, Robyn Bennett Nagy and John Barnum Bennett.
Mr. Bennett was born on May 3, 1929 in Panama City, Fla. He was a graduate of Bay High School Class of 1945, where he was elected President of the student body. He then attended Stetson University where he received his Juris Doctorate in 1951 and was a member of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. Upon graduation he joined the U.S. Army and served as a lieutenant in the JAG Corps until his discharge in 1954. He returned to Panama City after military service and on a blind date set up by his Brother he met then soon married the love of his life, the former Agatha Peeples.
Julian worked as an Attorney for over 60 years; his clients included the City of Panama City Beach, Gulf Coast Community College, Bay County School Board and Jim Walter Homes. He was elected to serve two terms in the Florida House of Representatives from 1961 to 1967 and received the Florida Legislature Debate Award in 1963 as the most effective in debate to which his sons can attest was a lifelong skill. He was also selected by the Florida Jaycees as one of Florida's Outstanding Young Men 1963. Julian was a active member of the Florida Democratic Party and he campaigned for numerous political candidates over the years including his great friend Lawton Chiles.
He served as the Attorney for the Bay County School Board from 1960-79 during the service of Superintendent Tom Todd and help guide the implementation of the federally instituted school segregation plan. He was the recipient of the Jaycees Good Government Award in 1963 and PCB Chamber Pioneer of the Year in 2009. He is a Member of the Bay Count Bar Association and was president in 1953-54 as well as a member of The Florida Bar.
Julian was also a very successful entrepreneur following in the footsteps of his Father and Grandfather who opened the first Chevrolet dealership and the first Bank in Bay County. He and his brother Don opened The Reef Motel in the late 1950's which was one of the early motels on Panama City Beach. Then followed his partnership with Jimmy Lark and others in building the beaches first amusement park, Miracle Strip Amusement Park. In 1973 he was involved in bringing WMBB to Panama City and continued on to develop more motels, condominiums and other businesses with his sons. Julian loved Panama City Beach and one of his greatest joys was seeing the expansion and growth of the beach community.
It was shortly after The Reef was opened Julian became involved with others in the founding of the Bay County Hotel and Motel Association, the precursor to today's TDC. He was named its first Chairman and served on the board for many years. He was a founding Board member and current member emeritus of the Bay County Boys Club, the Rescue Mission, Rotary Club and Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce. He also served on the boards of the Early Learning Coalition, Visit Florida, Florida Board of Regents and his favorite the Bay High Boosters. He is also a lifelong member of and biggest fan of the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club.
Julian loved his God and his local church very much. He was a member of Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church where he served in all office positions including his great passion of leading a Bible Study, which he did for over 50 years. He would often handle the preaching duties as needed by the church; although his wife would later share he was a better lawyer than a preacher he was quite gifted in sharing the Word. He enjoyed attending many of the local churches often sharing services and group studies with his sons and friends at various venues throughout his life. Never at a loss for words, his wisdom and experience in sharing was always a blessing to hear. Julian later became an active member of First Baptist Church and enjoyed meeting with the Men's Thursday Morning group.
Visitation will be from 5:00 to 8:00, Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at the home of Julian and Agatha Bennett 3127 W. 30th Court Panama City. Funeral services for Mr. Bennett will be conducted Friday, November 1, 2013 at 3:00 at First Baptist Church of Panama City. Pallbearers will be Bert Jinks, Gene Cartilage, Ted Haney, Rick Dye, Terry Cantrell, and Grover Davis. Honorary pallbearers will be Charlie Hilton, Whitey Urquhart, Jack Whitted, Jerry Clemons, Joe Chapman, Tommy Cooley Charles Whitehead, Don Crisp, Grover Davis and Jimmy Lewis . Interment will follow in the Greenwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions be made to the Panama City Rescue Mission or the church of your choice in memory of Julian and Agatha Bennett.
Condolences may be submitted or viewed at www.southerlandfamily.com.
100 E. 19th St.
Panama City, Fla. 32405
Published in Panama City News Herald from Oct. 29 to Oct. 31, 2013