Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Remembering Mr. Bennett

By Steve Epley

Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. Black Friday has come and gone. Let us give thanks.
Every day could be Thanksgiving Day if we would only stop and think. Someone wisely said, “Thinkfulness produces thankfulness.” Lately I’ve been thinking about Mr. Bennett, a former principal of Myers Grade School in Cannelton, Ind. My memories of this good man have been stirred by the realization that the year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the removal of Bible reading and prayer from our public schools.
Remember how it happened? An atheist mother did not want her son to be exposed to any religious practices at school. She took her case all the way to the Supreme Court and the Court sided with her. It was quite a victory for atheism. It was a great loss for America.
I was only 9 years old at the time, and I cannot remember the reactions of the adult world. But I do remember the actions of one man.
Mr. Bennett was not only the principal at Myers, he was also my sixth-grade teacher for the 1965-66 school year. He read the Bible to us and led us in prayer. What he did was, technically, against the law — a law which had been recently forced upon us by an out-of-focus Supreme Court.
I do not believe he was trying to be an outlaw or a rebel. Not Mr. Bennett. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known.
I remember when I threw a rock and hit Brenda Anderson in the head and her blond hair began to turn red! I had to stand before Mr. Bennett. He handled the matter with firmness, with wisdom and … with mercy.
It is very possible that some teachers and administrators in those days expected the new law to be overturned. Perhaps they felt this new government restriction was “on trial” and that soon America would wake up and return to sanity.
Some educators may have been so bold as to stand in the spirit of the apostle Peter, who proclaimed, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
For whatever reason, Mr. Bennett read the Bible to us and led us in prayer. You know, the more I think about it, I believe his motive was love. As a principal he had watched us grow from first-graders to sixth-graders, now not far from high school.  He knew we needed more than academics to face the world and be a success.  He knew we needed God.
Mr. Bennett left this world in 2001, but he lives on in the corridors of my memory. I didn’t appreciate what he did at the time, and I really didn’t appreciate him. But I do now.