Longtime Hamilton County property assessor and former county commissioner Bill Bennett died Friday at the age of 82.
Bennett's son told commissioners his father had cancer in November.
Bennett first held public office in 1980 when he became a Hamilton County Commissioner for District 9, representing Highway 58, Ooltewah and Collegedale areas. He was the only Republican on the commission at the time, according to his obituary.
Among his most notable accomplishments were the development of a countywide ambulance service, the improvement of fire protection services, the development of industrial parks and in bringing improved sewer services to communities in his district, according to his obituary.
Bennett spent 14 years on the commission, including three terms as chairman. He was then appointed as the county's assessor of property in 1994.
"The passing of Bill Bennett is a tremendous loss to not only his family, but this community. Bill's leadership in various elected offices has left an indelible mark on Hamilton County," reads a statement from current county mayor Jim Coppinger. "Bill always liked to describe himself as 'a humble servant of the people.' Humble he was, but more importantly Bill was truly a servant of the people."
Bennett was born in Sparta, Tennessee, in 1936. The son of a farmer and part-time preacher, he had five brothers and a sister. His early years were spent in a two-room school before the family moved to Cookeville, Tennessee, in his teenage years. He would later attend Tennessee Tech, where he met his wife Marguerite Cooper.
He worked as a sportswriter briefly for the Cookeville Citizen then moved to Chattanooga for work and wrote some for the Chattanooga Times. He eventually got a job at Combustion Engineering, where he worked from 1959 to 1986. Bennett and good friend Bobby Wood opened Carriage Hill Insurance in 1986, and he remained with the business until 1994.
"I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Bill Bennett," reads a statement from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. "As Hamilton County Assessor of Property and a member of the County Commission, he was a tireless public servant who truly embodied the best of East Tennessee. The legacy of Bill Bennett will forever be intertwined with the success of Hamilton County. I send my heartfelt condolences to the Bennett family and their friends during this difficult time."
Visitation will be held at Chattanooga Funeral Home on Monday from 4-8 p.m. and Tuesday from noon until the 1 p.m. funeral. The funeral will be held Tuesday following visitation. The burial will be private.
WHAT THEY SAID:
“Thoughtout his decades in public life, Bill Bennett touched the lives of thousands of people in Hamilton County with his unique mix of kindness, perseverance and commitment to service. I am thankful for his many years of friendship and grateful for his life that was well lived.” — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
“Hamilton County lost a great father, a great friend and a great leader today. Bill Bennett was the first politician I ever supported. I’ll miss him. Please remember his family in your prayers.” — Tennessee State Rep. Mike Carter, R-District 29.
“Bill Bennett’s passing is a tremendous loss to not only his family, but this community. Bill’s leadership in various elected offices has left an indelible mark on Hamilton County. Bill will be deeply missed by all who knew him.” — Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger
“I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Bill Bennett. As @HamCoTNGov Assessor of Property and a member of the County Commission, he was a tireless public servant who truly embodied the best of East Tennessee. The legacy of Bill Bennett will forever be intertwined with the success of Hamilton County. I send my heartfelt condolences to the Bennett family and their friends during this difficult time.” — U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.