William C. (Bill) Bennett, 82 years of age, passed away on Friday, December 14, 2018. He was recently a resident of Alexian Village Health and Rehabilitation Center.
Bill was born in Sparta, Tn., to Ernest Denton Bennett, Sr., and Mary Roberts Bennett on April 8, 1936. He was one of six boys, and he had one sister. Ernest Bennett was a farmer, and Bill worked together with his father, his brothers, and his sister in the fields. Ernest, a part-time preacher, and Mary, taught their children right from wrong.
Bill’s early education was in a two-room school, with grades 1-4 in one room ad grades 5-8 in the other room. The teacher would teach the children by grade, and then move to the next set of children.
Bill’s family moved to Cookeville, Tn., when he was fourteen years of age, attending Central High in Cookeville. He played sports, including football for a legendary coach, Eddie Watson. Bill met Marguerite Cooper at Tennessee Tech. They would marry in 1957, experiencing 61 years of marriage, and to whom he referred to as “The Speaker of the House.”
Bill was a sportswriter for the Cookeville Citizen for a brief time. He joined the Army Reserves, where a buddy informed him of possible job prospects at Combustion Engineering in Chattanooga. He and his wife moved to Chattanooga and he worked for a time at Miller Brothers and also as a sportswriter at the Chattanooga Times. Bill eventually landed a job at Combustion Engineering, remaining there from 1959 to 1986. Despite not having a college degree, through hard work, skill and intelligence, he achieved the benchmark of being an engineer. Bill and his good friend, Bobby Wood, opened Carriage Hill Insurance in 1986. Bill remained in business with Mr. Wood until 1994.
Bill was active in political campaigns, and became a part of what was referred to as the “Harrison Mafia,” along with Bobby Wood, Claude Ramsey, and others.
Feeling the need to serve, Bill began his public service on the County Commission in 1980, serving the constituents of District 9, consisting mainly of the Highway 58, Ooltewah, and Collegedale areas. At the time, he was the lone Republican on the County Commission, and only one of three Republicans in elective office in Hamilton County.
Among others of his multitude of service accomplishments for Hamilton County, he was instrumental in the development of a county-wide system of ambulance service, the improvement of fire protection services, the development of industrial parks and in bringing sewer services to communities in his district. The extension of sewer service to Ooltewah was pivotal to commercial development of a growing Ooltewah area, allowing business such as the Red Food Store being built in Ooltewah. He also helped in the development of Little Debbie Parkway.
After serving 14 years on the County Commission, including three terms as Chairman, Bill was appointed by his fellow commissioners as Assessor of Property in 1994. After only two years in that position, in 1996, he was named the statewide Assessor of the Year. He served as president of the statewide assessor’s association from 1999 to 2000, and received a lifetime achievement award by that organization in 2009. Bill also served on the State Board of Equalization, having been appointed to that body by Governor Bill Haslam. He would eventually serve as chairman of that body.
Having served the public as either County Commissioner or Assessor of Property since 1980, Bill decided in 2015 to step away from elected office, ending with the conclusion of his term in 2016, resulting in thirty-six years of public service to the citizens of Hamilton County.
While on a trip vacationing with his wife in 2008, Bill experienced significant pain in several parts of his body. After being rushed home on a private jet, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Bill and his family travelled to Tampa to be seen at Moffitt Cancer Center by Dr. Melissa Alsina. Dr. Alsina prescribed a then-emerging medicine and, working closely in a team effort with Dr. Darrell Johnson of Tennessee Oncology, the treatment was successful. Bill and his family are eternally grateful to Dr. Alsina, Nurse Kathy Daly, Dr. Darrell Johnson, all of the helpful staff at Tennessee Oncology, all those who prayed for him, and especially grateful to his Almighty Lord who blessed him with remission from multiple myeloma. Over the course of the next ten years, among other blessings, Bill welcomed two grandchildren, who he enjoyed immensely.
Bill and his wife, Marguerite, were earnest members of Lake Hills Church of Christ for more than 50 years. Although it may not have been every time, if healthy and in town, Bill would try always to go to service there “every time the doors are open.”
Bill loved life and displayed that, among other ways, in his several hobbies. Bill was a lifelong, avid and devoted fan of the UT Vols. He had season tickets for decades, enjoying every occasion to attend games with his son, J.B., ever since J.B. was three years old in 1969, at the UT vs. Georgia Tech game. He promised to take J.B. to the homes games in exchange for J.B. taking Bill to the home games when Bill preferred someone else to drive. Bill also was an avid golfer as a younger man, as one of “Arnie’s Army.” Bill also delighted in coaching his children, Lee Ann in softball at Hillcrest, J.B. in baseball at Hillcrest, and Brad in baseball at Hillcrest. Bill has a baseball field named for him at the Harrison ball fields, the “Bill Bennett Field.”
Among his most cherished memories and experiences was spending time with his treasured children, Lee Ann, J.B., and Brad, and his grandchildren, Dorothy Frances Bennett and Thomas William Bennett. He was so very pleased to learn of his next grandchild, Charles Merrit Bennett.
Throughout the course of his adult life, he endeavored to live up to his motto, or, as the “Speaker of the House” calls it, his mantra: “Try to make a difference every day.”
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Ernest and Mary Bennett, his brother, Floyd and Dean Bennett, and his sister, Martha Jane McHood.
Family members surviving him include his wife, Marguerite, his brothers, Ernest Denton Bennett, Jr., of Nashville, Tennessee, Eugene Bennett of Franklin, Tennessee, Frank (Linda) Bennett of Crossville, Tennessee, his children, Lee Ann (Madison) Roane of Tampa, Florida, J.B. Bennett of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Dr. Brad (Dr. Kathleen Pridgen) Bennett of Birmingham, Alabama, his grandchildren, Dorothy Frances Bennett and Thomas William Bennett of Birmingham, Alabama, numerous nieces and nephews, and extended family members.
The family will receive friends on Monday, Dec. 17, from 4-8 p.m., at Chattanooga Funeral Home, North Chapel, on Highway 153, and on Tuesday, Dec. 18, from 12 o’clock (noon) until the funeral services begin at the funeral home.
Funeral services will be at the Chattanooga Funeral Home, North Chapel on Highway 153, on Tuesday, Dec. 18, at 1 p.m. Officiating the service will be Minister Paul McDaniel and Minister Sterling Jetton. Friends and family members will serve as pallbearers and honorary pallbearers. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, online at donate.themmrf.org, or by mail, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, 383 Main Avenue, 5th Floor, Norwalk, CT 06851, or Children’s Advocacy Center, online at cacjetx.org or by mail, 5705 Uptain Road, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37411, or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, online at stjude.org or by mail, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, Tennessee 38105, or Boyd-Buchanan School, online at bbschool.org or by mail, 4650 Buccaneer Trail, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37411, or a charity of your choice.
Please share your thoughts and memories online at www.chattganooganorthchapel.com.
Arrangements are by Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist-North Chapel and Hamilton Memorial Gardens, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, Tn. 37343.