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Interview with Ed Benson, June 8, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:50 - Early life

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Partial Transcript: Ed, let's begin with your growing up in Athens.

Segment Synopsis: Benson recalls his early life in Athens, Georgia, describing his father's entrepreneurial attitude and his various business ventures, including a bakery where Benson worked as the delivery boy growing up. Benson describes attending both the Methodist and Baptist church growing up, as well as being part of the Tuck Class, a Sunday school class similar to the Rotary Club held at the Athens First United Methodist Church.

Keywords: Athens Firs United Methodist Church; H.C. Tuck Class; Sunday school; bakery; business; church; entrepreneur; family; religion; restaurant

00:09:52 - Public service

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Partial Transcript: Ed, let's talk about your involvement in the community over the years.

Segment Synopsis: Benson recalls the integration of the Athens public schools in 1971, and his mentoring of a young Michael Thurmond, who was later elected as the first black representative to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County. Benson also discusses creating the LLL (Listening, Learning, and Leading) Club, representing local black and white leadership in promoting race discussion and problem-solving.

Keywords: LLL Club; Listening, Learning, and Leading Club; Michael Thurmond; dialogue; integration; intersectional; public education; public schools; race; teaching

00:16:57 - Mentoring through local Athens organizations

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Partial Transcript: I know you've done a lot of mentoring of people.

Segment Synopsis: Benson talks about early public service experience in the Rotary Club after World War II, and describes his involvement in organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, United Way, and the Clarke County Mentor Program. Benson talks about Kevin Epps, the first student that he mentored.

Keywords: Boys and Girls Club; Peggy Galis; Rotary Club; United Way; YMCA; Young Mens Christian Association

00:28:07 - Rotary Club / Meals on Wheels

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Partial Transcript: Well, it's interesting to hear about the involvement of Rotary and its values and influence and meaning it had in your life.

Segment Synopsis: Benson discusses his long-time involvement in the Rotary Club, which included becoming the president of the Athens Rotary Club at age 28, and later stepping up to the role of District Governor. Benson talks about volunteering through Meals on Wheels for 13 years, during which time he began mentoring a young girl.

Keywords: adoption; disability; food insecurity; leadership; mentoring; public service; volunteer

00:34:28 - Entering UGA / Flight school training

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Partial Transcript: You've been involved in the university--a graduate of the university--a fan of the university.

Segment Synopsis: Benson talks about being at the University of Georgia between 1938-1942, during which time he was in ROTC and trained to be a pilot in the Army Air Corps. After graduation, he expected to serve as a fighter pilot but was instead reassigned to England as a flight intelligence officer.

Keywords: 48th Fighter Squadron; England; Fort Benning; P-38 plane; World War II; army training; college flight program; draft; fighter squadron; pilot

00:39:18 - North African tour

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Partial Transcript: We stayed in England for two months and we found out we were going somewhere.

Segment Synopsis: Benson recalls his team's expedition to North Africa, which followed routes between T├ębessa, Casablanca, and Algiers. He discusses the dynamic of his team, including the strong bond formed over their 23-month service together, as well as how he was affected by the deaths of many of his team members in a German air strike.

Keywords: Algeria; Army Air Corps; Casablanca Conference; Morocco; North African theater; World War II; bombing; unconditional surrender doctrine

00:45:26 - Continued connection to UGA

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Partial Transcript: Maybe we'll just wrap up with a few words about the University of Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Benson talks about his continued involvement with the University of Georgia through the alumni program and the UGA Foundation.

Keywords: University of Georgia Foundation; alumni relations; donation; fundraising