Bennett, Charles E(dward) 1910-2003

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BENNETT, Charles E(dward) 1910-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born December 2, 1910, in Canton, NY; died September 6, 2003, in Jacksonville, FL. Politician and author. Bennett, who became known for championing ethical practices in government, served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Jacksonville, Florida, Democrat from 1948 until 1992. A graduate of the University of Florida, where he earned his law degree in 1934, he practiced law in Jacksonville for several years before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1942. Seeing action in the South Pacific, Bennett was awarded the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. Unfortunately, he also contracted polio, which left him crippled for the rest of his life. Returning home, he ran against an incumbent in 1948 and won a seat in Congress. Ironically, at first Bennett followed the lead of many southern politicians by opposing civil rights legislation, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, he changed course in 1965 to support the Voting Rights Act, and from then on became known for his tireless support of human rights and ethics issues. Not that a concern for ethics had not always been on his mind, for Bennett was an important leader in having the House pass a code of ethics in 1958, which eventually led to the establishment of a permanent ethics committee in the House in 1967. During Watergate, Bennett chaired the committee investigating the scandal that would lead to President Richard Nixon's resignation; later, during President Ronald Reagan's term in office, Bennett, who was on the House Armed Services Committee, also became known for his opposition to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and helped block some of the spending on the program that he felt was wasteful. Other causes championed by Bennett included anti-drug legislation (his son had died of an overdose), animal rights, and his sponsorship of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1955 he also sponsored legislation that required the words "In God We Trust" to be printed on all paper and coin currency; the phrase would also become the national motto in 1956. Despite his continued support for such causes, Bennett was passed over twice to be chair of the House Ethics Committee that he had helped form. He considered it a rebuke for refusing to participate in the club-like atmosphere among political insiders on Capitol Hill. Nevertheless, Bennett accomplished a great deal during his decades in office, and his reputation as "Mr. Clean" (he frequently opposed Congressional pay raises and turned down contributions from businesses and special interests) remains secure. Bennett, who was interested in American history and was a professor at Jacksonville University in the early 1990s, was the author of several books, including Southernmost Battlefields of the Revolution (1970), Florida's "French" Revolution, 1793-1795 (1981), Twelve on the River St. John (1989), and, as coauthor, A Quest for Glory: Major General Robert Howe and the American Revolution (1991).



Chicago Tribune, September 8, 2003, Section 1, p. 13.

Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2003, p. B9.

New York Times, September 10, 2003, p. A22.

Times (London, England), September 25, 2003.

Washington Post, September 8, 2003, p. B4.

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Bennett, Charles E(dward) 1910-2003

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