James Elton Bennett passed away April 30, 2010 at the age of 87. Funeral services were held at 10 a.m. Monday May 3, 2010 at Fort Stockton Church of Christ, Harold Durham and Felix Kneuper officiating. Burial followed at East Hill Cemetery.
Born in San Saba County, Texas on August 3, 1922, he was the third and last child of Wayne Baxter Bennett and Alice Fox Bennett. To his family and his lifelong San Saba County friends he was simply known as ‘Bug’, a nickname he was given when he was a mere infant.
Raised on a dry land farm, he attended San Saba schools. At San Saba High, he lettered in football and track. After graduating from San Saba High School in 1940, he spent two years at John Tarleton Junior College, before enlisting in the United States Navy. Assigned to the Destroyer USS Burns, he endured 33 months at sea while participating in 11 major Naval operations during the Pacific campaign. At the time of his discharge in January 1946, he had attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer Fire Controlman.
Returning to school, he received a degree in Agricultural Engineering from the Agriculture and Mechanical College of Texas in June 1948. Upon graduation, he briefly worked for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service as the Assistant County Agent for Reeves County, and later for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service in Balmorhea, TX.
He was recalled to the Navy in 1950 for the Korean Conflict. While stationed in Orange, TX, he met Ann McLean, a young schoolteacher from his native San Saba County. The couple was married on February 15, 1952.
Upon discharge, he returned to Balmorhea with his young bride and resumed his work for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. From 1954 to 1966 he managed large irrigated farms for the Fred Chandler Company in Reeves, Pecos, and Culberson Counties. The 10,000 acre Culberson County operation included a 2000 acre cotton allotment, a 5,000 head feedlot, and grazing program for another 5,000+ head of light cattle.
In 1967, he began managing Belding Farms for the Cockrell family. During his 27 years of management, the farm was transformed from mixed agriculture that included cotton, alfalfa, and livestock into one of the largest and most productive pecan orchards not only in the state of Texas but in the nation. The farm’s annual Pecan production often accounted for over 10 percent of the total Pecan production for the state of Texas.
In 1991, he was recognized by the Fort Worth Star Telegram as well as by Trans-Pecos Soil & Water Conservation District as Top Pecan Farmer, and Farmer of the Year, respectively. In July of 2005, his lifelong efforts in the Pecan industry were recognized when he received the Texas Pecan Growers Association’s highest honor, the ‘Life Membership Award’.
In addition to a passion for the challenges and rewards of farming and ranching, he enjoyed shooting, hunting, riding horses, and collecting knives.
Baptized into Christ in the mid 1960s, he truly lived as faithful member of Christ’s church until death. He was preceded in death by his parents and two older sisters, Alberta and Oleta.
He is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Ann Bennett of Fort Stockton; sons and daughters-in-law Jimmy and Diane Bennett of Fort Stockton; Bobby and Judy Bennett of Fort Stockton; Steve and Tammy Bennett of Niceville, FL.; and grandchildren Brady of Austin; Rebecca of College Station; Shane of Niceville, FL.; and Rebecca of Fort Stockton.
He was loved and respected by many - he will be missed. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Cherokee Home for Children located in Cherokee, Texas.
Services are entrusted to Gentry Funeral Home of Fort Stockton, TX.