Four-time Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett lost his battle to cancer Wednesday night. He was 76.
Bennett’s death was announced Thursday by Jacksonville State University, where he served as chairman of the board of trustees.
Thursday morning, the Alabama Senate paused their work on a state lottery bill to honor Bennett with a moment of silence.
“You talk about a man who did well in everything he did,” said Bessemer Democratic state Sen. Priscilla Dunn on the floor of the Alabama Senate Thursday morning. “He was an honest man and he was always there for me.”
Alabaster Republican Cam Ward echoed Dunn’s praise. “Jim had a way — it’s a bygone era of being a calm, deliberative voice even when things went crazy. He was just a sound voice.”
Born in Iowa and raised in Tennessee, Bennett worked as reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald after graduating Jacksonville State University in 1961 where he covered civil rights protests in Birmingham in the 1960s. Following his years as a journalist, Bennett was elected to the Alabama Legislature in 1978 and later served four terms as secretary of state by appointment or election.
Gov. Robert Bentley said Bennett’s legacy and memory will live on for years.
“Alabama has lost a wonderful leader and true public servant,” Bentley said in a release. “On Monday, I visited Jim and awarded him the Governor’s Cross in recognition of his unselfish service to Alabama. This is an Alabama National Guard medal, and it is highest honor that can be bestowed by the Guard. Jim was a dedicated public servant for many decades who truly cared for the people of Alabama. I know his legacy, and his memory will live on for years to come.”
Current Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said there are very few who have contributed as much to Alabama as Bennett, describing him as a “friend and mentor.”
“Secretary Bennett contributed extensively to the betterment of the entire state of Alabama as he dedicated his life to the service of the people,” Merrill said. “He was one of those who helped me as an up-and-coming young person who hoped to be involved in Alabama politics. He always had time for me. He always had time to answer my questions and to offer a kind and supporting word. He was that way for everyone, not just me.”
A Republican, Bennett last left the office in 2015, when he retired and was honored with a Capitol ceremony.
Bennett is survived by his wife Andrea and two children.