Bennett, Charles E., 1910-2003

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Charles Edward Bennett (b. Dec. 2, 1910, Canton, N.Y.-d. Sept. 6, 2003, Jacksonville, Fla.), lawyer, was a member of the Florida state house of representatives in 1941. He was elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-first and to the twenty-one succeeding Congresses, serving from January 3, 1949 to January 3, 1993.

From the description of Bennett, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1910-2003 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10582731

Congressman.

From the description of Reminiscences of Charles Edward Bennett : oral history, 1970. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122376558

Charles "Charlie" Edward Bennett was born on December 2, 1910. In 1949 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as the Democratic representative of Jacksonville's 2nd district (which became the 3rd district in 1967). He was re-elected twenty-one more times, serving from 1949 to 1993. He died on September 6, 2003 in Jacksonville.

From the description of Charles E. Bennett Papers, 1903-2001 (bulk: 1949-1992) (University of Florida). WorldCat record id: 19617386

Charles "Charlie" Edward Bennett was born on December 2, 1910 in Canton, New York. At the age of two his family relocated to Tampa, Florida, where his father worked for the U.S. Weather Bureau. Charles lived in Tampa throughout his youth. He was an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America and received the Eagle Scout Award. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Florida. He was president of the UF student body and served as editor of the Florida Alligator student newspaper. In addition to a wide range of volunteer activities and participation in political organizations, Charles worked his way through college by waiting tables, working on a university farm, and writing articles for local newspapers.

After graduating from UF with a Juris Doctor law degree in 1934, Bennett began practicing law in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1941, Bennett was elected to a term in the Florida State legislature. In early 1942 he gave up his legislative seat and joined the U.S. Army as a private. Bennett served in the Pacific during World War II, including fighting in the Philippines and New Guinea. While serving in the Philippines, he contracted polio, a disease that left his legs partially paralyzed for the remainder of his life. When Bennett left Army service in 1947 he had attained the rank of Captain. He was awarded both a Bonze and Sliver Star for his outstanding wartime accomplishments.

Following the war, Bennett returned to Jacksonville and resumed practicing law. In 1949 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as the Democratic representative of Jacksonville's 2nd district (which became the 3rd district in 1967). He was re-elected twenty-one more times, serving from 1949 to 1993, and he rarely faced strong opposition. In 1953, Bennett married Dorothy Jean, with whom he had four children: Lucinda (Cindy), Charles Jr., James, and Bruce. Throughout his life, Bennett was devoted to his Christian faith; he was a deacon and taught Sunday school for many years at the Riverside Avenue Christian Church in Jacksonville. In 1955 he sponsored the legislation which added the phrase "In God We Trust" to American currency. Later in his life Bennett revealed that he believed this was his most important accomplishment as a Congressman.

Throughout his political career Bennett fought against corruption in legislature, promoting a code of ethics for members of government that came to be called "The Ten Commandments." His strict adherence to a high standard of personal ethics resulted in his nicknames such as "Mr. Ethics" and "Mr. Clean." He led efforts to establish the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in 1958, and the "Code of Ethics for Government Service." He also was the first chair of the Congressional Ethics Committee. Fiscally conservative and a great opponent of waste, Bennett's leftover campaign funds were donated to the National Parks Service, and he regularly returned his veteran disability pension to the U.S. Treasury. Bennett also refused his congressional pay raises and voted against the practice in Congress. He received the "Watchdog of the Treasury Award" on multiple occasions for his strong support of economy in government.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Bennett voted with many southern Democrats against civil rights and Great Society programs, including Medicare and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He also signed the so-called Southern Manifesto in 1956, generally opposing the integration of public schools. However, in 1965 Bennett broke with the southern bloc to support the 1965 Voting Rights Act, arguing that it was based on a "constitutional obligation." Throughout his later political career he consistently received a great deal of support from Jacksonville's African-American community.

Bennett was very concerned with the nation's defense and security, and for many years was second in seniority on the House Armed Services Committee. Bennett strongly opposed worldwide proliferation of nuclear arms, and in the 1960s he supported the creation of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In the 1980s, he supported funding for more conventional weapons and reductions in Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) spending. His legislation also set standards for upgrades in military housing, particularly in his own district's naval air stations.

Domestically, Bennett was concerned with urban issues of poverty, juvenile delinquency and drug use, and the raising of auto safety standards. He also advocated better working conditions for migrant farm workers, increased awareness for animal rights, establishment of the National Teachers Corps, federal aid to hospital and school construction, child welfare programs, and establishment of the Small Business Administration. As a disabled person Bennett promoted the rights of handicapped individuals. He co-sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act, fought for architectural improvements to aid the handicapped, and regularly sought to demonstrate the often underestimated capacity of disabled persons. Despite his paralysis, he acquired the longest consecutive record of roll call votes in Congress without an absence - 26 years.

Bennett also was a historian of Florida and U.S. colonial history, writing and publishing nine books and several articles. He was a proponent of environmental conservation and historical preservation. He often sponsored bills to preserve or improve Florida's environment, including the prevention of erosion on Florida's beaches. He was instrumental in the creation of the Fort Caroline National Park Memorial in Jacksonville and its surrounding Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, as well as the Key Deer Preserve in the Florida Keys. He also was co-sponsor of the Wilderness Preservation Act and the Land and Water Conservation Act.

In 1993, Bennett retired from Congress to care for his ailing wife. He suffered a heart attack and a stroke in 2002. He died on September 6, 2003 in Jacksonville at age 92 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

From the guide to the Charles E. Bennett Papers, 1903-2001, 1949-1992, (Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Bennett, Charles E., 1910-2003. Charles E. Bennett papers, 1941-1992. U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center
creatorOf Bennett, Charles E., 1910-2003. Reminiscences of Charles Edward Bennett : oral history, 1970. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Charles E. Bennett Papers. 3/15/1981 - 3/15/1981. Personal File
creatorOf Bennett, Charles E., 1910-. Miscellaneous papers. Jacksonville University, Carl S. Swisher Library
creatorOf Bennett, Charles E., 1910-2003. Charles E. Bennett Papers, 1903-2001 (bulk: 1949-1992) University of Florida
referencedIn Jacksonville, Florida, Historical Newspapers Collection, 1890-2012 UNF Library Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Charles E. Bennett
creatorOf Bennett, Charles E., 1910-2003. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, n.d. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Charles E. Bennett Papers, 1903-2001, 1949-1992 Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
creatorOf Kennedy, John Pendleton, 1795-1870. Papers of John Pendleton Kennedy [manuscript], 1828-1859. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Younger, J. Arthur (Jesse Arthur), 1893-1967. J. Arthur Younger papers, 1964-1968. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Chase, Salmon P. (Salmon Portland), 1808-1873. Letter: Columbus, [Ohio], to Cha[rle]s Edw[ard] Bennett, 1859 Jan. 25. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
Charles E. Bennett Papers
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Chase, Salmon P. (Salmon Portland), 1808-1873. person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969. person
associatedWith Jacksonville Junior College. corporateBody
associatedWith Jacksonville University. corporateBody
associatedWith Kennedy, John Pendleton, 1795-1870. person
associatedWith North, Donald, person
associatedWith The Florida Times-Union. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. corporateBody
associatedWith Younger, J. Arthur (Jesse Arthur), 1893-1967. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Hawaii
United States
Philippines
Florida
New Guinea
Florida
Florida
Subject
Politicians--Interviews
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns
World War, 1939-1945
Legislators--Archives
World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1910-12-02

Death 2003-09-06

Americans

English

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