'In God We Trust'
Ceremony Held for Unveiling Statue Honoring the Late
Congressman Charles E. Bennett
On Friday, April 23, 2004, at 5:00 p.m. a statue was unveiled at a special ceremony in Hemming Park to honor Florida's longest serving congressman and principal advocate for ethical reform in Congress, the late Charles E. Bennett.
For more than half of century, his commitment to his country and public service was steadfast. He was a decorated veteran of World War II, receiving the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge; a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 44 years (where he set an all-time record in Congress for never missing a single legislative vote for 41 years); and a well-respected and honored statesman.
While serving in Congress, he was a member of the House Armed Services Committee for 39 years and chaired the Seapower Subcommittee for 24 of those years. He was working at the forefront on our nation's environmental issues; was an early advocate of natural and historical preservation as well as creating the Fort Caroline Memorial and the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve locally; he spearheaded legislation regarding government ethics; and secured the phrase 'In God We Trust' as our national motto, imprinted on all of our currency and coins.
In 2000 the Jacksonville City Council, wanting to honor this tireless champion of democracy, passed Ordinance 2000-608. In doing so, the Council established the Charles Bennett Statue Trust Fund, appropriating $42,000 and initializing funding for this project. Taking the lead on this project were former Council President Matt Carlucci and Property Appraiser Jim Overton (who was also on the Jacksonville City Council at that time). Both had worked not only to preserve our city's history, but also to create more public art including testaments of great people, such as the statue of Congressman Bennett.
'We will never have another Charlie Bennett,' said Carlucci. 'He was a good friend to all of us and a dear man. He was genuinely concerned about people, our city and our country. We all really miss him, but this is such a warm reminder of what a true and caring gentleman he was.'
The bronze statue created by sculptor, William Francis Duffy, was commissioned by the Cultural Council as part of the Art in Public Places program. Just a little larger than life size and facing north towards Washington D.C., the statue weighs approximately 1,500 lbs. and stands atop a marble base, inscribed with:
Charles E. Bennett, 1910-2003, 'In God We Trust'
Friend – Scholar, Statesman – Preservationist, Citizen – War Hero
Councilman Kevin Hyde, At-Large Group 4, and Councilwoman Suzanne Jenkins, District 4, had been working to provide continuity on the Council and to see this endeavor through to fruition. Hyde remarked, 'I think it is fitting to place this statue of Congressman Bennett in historic Hemming Park surrounded by structures representing government, legislation, religion, the courts, the arts and learning.'
Hyde added, 'It serves as a great reminder for all of us that this gentleman was involved in many aspects of public service and encourages us to lead the caliber of life this man did with integrity, honesty, respect and a good old-fashioned hard work ethic.'
Jenkins said, 'I am especially pleased that Congressman Bennett got to be a part of this project, to see the model of what the statue was going to look like, and get a sense of the true respect and admiration Jacksonville had for him.'