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William Jack Benson

William "Jack" Benson, a longtime Chattanooga City Council member who died late Thursday, was remembered Friday as a "fiercely loyal friend"and "one of a kind."

Benson, 85, had been a principal and assistant superintendent in the local public school system.

He and his wife, Kathleen "Kay" Benson, have three grown sons and have lived in Chattanooga for most of their lives.

Travis R. McDonough, chief of staff and counsel to the mayor, frequently worked with Benson when he was a councilman, and said, "[Benson] was a fiercely loyal friend and was never afraid to stand up for his principles, regardless of politics. It was an honor to work with him."

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga who also worked with Benson when he was on the council, described him as "one of a kind."

"He cared deeply about our community, his district, public education and, most of all, beamed with pride when he talked about his outstanding family," Corker said in a written statement. "I was honored to serve with him in Chattanooga, and Kay and the children are in my thoughts and prayers."

Benson moved to Chattanooga after attending Vanderbilt University, received his master's degree in education from the University of Chattanooga, now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and completed his postgraduate work at the University of Tennessee.

He had an extensive career in Chattanooga public schools and retired from public education in 1985.

Don Loftis, former county superintendent, said "[Benson] was wonderful to work with ... a brilliant educator."

Loftis said Benson was one of the most well-respected educators in the state.

"His big interest was in helping children, that was his consuming desire," Loftis said.

Upon retiring, Benson became director of the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program for 15 years.

In 2001, he was elected to represent District 4 on the City Council, a post he held until 2013. During his time on the council, Benson was known for rarely missing a meeting.

Todd Womack, now chief of staff for Sen. Corker, worked closely with Benson when Corker was mayor.

"Jack had an insightful story for every occasion and a way of injecting humor and wisdom into the most challenging circumstances," Womack said. "I was honored to work with him, and I am so grateful for the many kindnesses he showed me and for his steady friendship over many years."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6592.

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