By Heather Greene, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations
Jacksonville State University again can boast of a highly placed state official, as JSU Board of Trustees Chair Jim Bennett ’62 has been appointed Alabama Secretary of State for the second time in his career. Governor Robert Bentley announced the appointment on Tuesday, July 9, 2013.
Bennett will succeed Secretary of State Beth Chapman, who will step down on July 31.
During his time at JSU, Bennett served as SGA representative and was editor of the Collegian, predecessor of the Chanticleer. He was a trumpet player in the Marching Southerners in their second year of existence and also served as band announcer.
Bennett was also a member of Phi Mu Alpha, Three Keys, and Omega Delta Pi. In fact, he was instrumental in the move to bring social fraternities to JSU’s campus.
After graduating with his bachelor’s in biology from JSU, Bennett went straight to the Birmingham Post Herald where he served as a reporter in the Alabama capital in the early 1960s. Bennett can recall interviewing such historical figures as George Wallace and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bennett later went into public relations for a period of time in Birmingham. In 1978, he was elected to the Alabama legislature.
For over thirty years, Bennett has served the people of Alabama in various government positions. A member of the Alabama State House of Representatives from 1978-1983, Bennett went on to serve in the Alabama State Senate from 1983-1993. In 1993, Bennett was appointed secretary of state. Later, he was elected twice, serving in this capacity for ten years. He became known for his work to combat absentee ballot abuse and to increase the accuracy of voter rolls by making sure names of the deceased were removed. He later served the people of Alabama as labor commissioner.
Governor Bentley said Bennett’s distinguished record of service made him well qualified to complete the current term as secretary of state.
“Jim is a dedicated public servant,” Governor Bentley said in the release announcing Bennett’s appointment. “He was a trusted member of my cabinet where he served as Labor Commissioner until his retirement in 2012. Having previously served as Secretary of State, Jim is uniquely qualified to lead the Secretary of State’s Office through the 2014 election cycle. I know Jim will fight for every Alabamian’s right to vote. I appreciate his willingness to serve and know he will be an honest and dedicated Secretary of State.”
Bennett has felt very blessed in his political journey and is thankful for the many opportunities he has been given.
“It is a distinct honor to return to the Secretary of State’s Office where I served for ten years from 1993-2003,” Bennett said. “I appreciate Governor Bentley’s confidence in my ability to lead the effort for honest elections and to support the opportunity for all citizens to actively participate in government through the voting process. This is especially important with the 2014 election cycle a short time ahead. To those who would seek to manipulate our most basic right to decide issues and elections fairly and honestly at the ballot box, my appointment will not come as good news.”
As if being a reporter, involved in public relations, and serving the state of Alabama in the realm of politics is not enough, Bennett has also authored a book entitled Historic Birmingham and Jefferson County, An Illustrated History, which sold out within six months of its first publication.
Bennett is very proud to call JSU his alma mater and honored to serve on the JSU Board of Trustees, where he was appointed in 1985. In 1994, Bennett was chosen as the JSU National Alumni Association Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. Bennett’s love for JSU carried over to his children and his family has several JSU alumni. In 2006, he returned to the field to play with the Marching Southerners for their 50th Anniversary Show.
The JSU family congratulates Secretary of State Bennett on his appointment and looks forward to having a Gamecock in the State House!
This article originally appeared in the "Town and Gown" of the Jacksonville News.