Julius Bennett: A life well lived
Published 3:08 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023
Being a special human being means many things to different people. Some believe a good person donates to charity or feeds their neighbor’s cat.
But in Lowndesboro kindness, love, and understanding can be summed up in just two words: Julius Bennett.
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In 1972, the face of law enforcement looked very different than it does today, but even then, Lowndes County was on the forefront of change.
At this time, John Hulett was the Lowndes County Sheriff; a Black man elected in an era still working through the changes brought about by the civil rights movement.
Bennett joined the department and Hulett took the young deputy under his wing as a special duty police officer. The job was only supposed to last three months.
Bennet’s family say that at first, he didn’t want the job. With the turmoil of the 1960’s still in America’s rear view mirror, becoming a “pig,” as officers were sometimes called, was not exactly considered as the best job choice.
But, Bennett stuck to Hulett’s side. He watched the sheriff. He listened; and he learned.
“I see a different perspective of being a deputy,” Bennett once said.
With that new vision, Bennett accepted the job of Lowndes County Sheriff’s Deputy. That acceptance changed the county forever, folks say and it added a new page to Alabama’s history book.
Bennett became the first Black chief deputy in Alabama, and one of the first in the entire United States.
“Communities need help from officers, not harm,” Bennett was fond of saying.
For 21 years, Bennett patrolled the county he loved. According to his family, he served with pride and honor, both on duty and off.
“When Dad retired from public service, he went back to his roots farming the land that grew him into the man he became,” said his daughter, Lisa McDay.
He also founded the Julius Bennett Hope Scholarship which helps Lowndes County seniors with college tuition and connects them with mentors in their chosen career field. “The purpose of the scholarship is for the future generations coming up to persevere through life’s trials and to help them focus on helping others,” McDay said.
“Always say and do the right thing, especially in front of children,” Bennett would often tell people before he died. “Children mimic what adults do. If we want a society of children doing the right thing, it starts with us.”
Bennetts family has lived in Lowndes county for many years. They will continue to live there, said Bennett. They will continue to love, honor, respect and grow a community of citizens devoted to changing not only the world around them, but the bigger world at large.
“Increase, upon increase,” McDay said.