NEXT MEETING: April 20, 2017
Reception at 6:30 p.m. Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Emmet O’Neal Library, Mountain Brook
SPEAKER: James Lowery
TOPIC: Birmingham Mineral Railroad
im Bennett, the Editor of this Jefferson Journal, and Past-President of The Jefferson County Historical Association, passed away on August 17, 2016. He had recently learned of his malignant tumor, which was already in an advanced stage when it was diagnosed, and he knew that his time was limited. But the time left to him was expected to be longer than it proved to be. He had initiated steps to choose a successor as Editor, and had begun preliminary work on publishing this very issue of the Journal.
The public news media already have printed important elements of his long and exceptional career, but they missed a primary element of his background which had strongly influenced that career. That strong influence was the fact that, in his heart and mind, Jim was a Historian. For him, that fact allowed him to place contemporary events in perspective. For us, it gave us an appreciation of his thoughts, opinions and actions. Just as a diamond is a valuable gem with many facets, so was Jim Bennett’s life. Our history society membership saw one of those facets clearly, while realizing that other people were more conscious of other facets, just as bright and important.
Jim was a faithful and important member of the Board of Directors of The Jefferson County Historical Association for many years, and he will be greatly missed. In that capacity, he had a strong influence on the growth of the Society. His influence was also very strong in the initiation and development of the The Birmingham History Center.
A very significant contribution to the museum consisted of authoring a new and beautiful illustrated, commercially successful, history book, "Historic Birmingham & Jefferson County", in 2007; and he donated all of the financial proceeds to the JCHS. (The funds are listed as a line-item in the Treasurer’s report, and are specifically designated for future artifact purchases by the museum.) This book and the future of the history museum will extend Jim’s influence and memory for many years ahead. His development of the Tannehill State Park and museum and his book, "Tannehill and the Growth of the Alabama Iron Industry"(2005) had preceded this more-general history book.
His work in recent years as Editor of this "The Jefferson Journal" transformed it from a standard, dry, newsletter format, to an interesting publication of historic articles and pictures. Continuing this concept would be Jim’s desire.
On a purely personal level, Jim Bennett’s smiling eyes, quick wit, pleasant conversation, and his work ethic will long be remembered by those who had the honor of working with him and associating with him. His unique combination of personality, knowledge and work will be very hard to match. He will be greatly missed.
As we drive south from Homewood on Highway 31, let us always give a quiet salute to Jim at The Jim Bennett Bridge, which was named in his honor.
Edward W. Stevenson, M.D.