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Congressman Charles E. Bennett and Eartha Mary Magdalene White on her 89th birthday. The party was held in the Clara White Mission auditorium on November 8, 1965.

Charles E. Bennett: Florida’s longest-serving member of Congress

Charles Edward Bennett was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Jacksonville from 1949 to 1993. He was a Democrat.

He was born December 2, 1910 in Canton, New York and moved to Jacksonville by the end of his childhood. Bennett was an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He was a lawyer and a member of the United States Army during World War II before being elected to Congress from what was then the 2nd District. He was reelected 21 more times from this Jacksonville-based district. He rarely faced serious opposition even as Jacksonville fell under increasing Republican influence.

In 1951, he began proposing a code of ethics for government employees, nicknamed The Ten Commandments. After the Sherman-Adams Affair, the code was adopted as the first Code of ethics for Government Service in 1958. In 1954, he sponsored the bill that added the words “In God We Trust” to both the nation’s coins and currency.

Bennett died in Jacksonville on September 6, 2003 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He is still the longest-serving member of either house of Congress in Florida’s history. The Charles E. Bennett Federal Building, 400 W. Bay Street, is named after him, and in 2004, the City of Jacksonville erected a statue of Bennett in Hemming Park (now James Weldon Johnson Park) across from City Hall. 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.

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

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