By Richard Rourk
Former Unicoi County Register of Deeds J.E. “Baldy” Bennett died Wednesday, May 26, at age 84.
Bennett served as Register of Deeds in Unicoi County for 20 years.
Current Register of Deeds Debbie Title spoke to The Erwin Record about her predecessor.
“I was saddened to learn that my predecessor had passed away,” Tittle said. “Baldy served our county as Register of Deeds from 1970 to 1990. He not only honorably served our county, he was also selected by his fellow registers across the state to serve as President of the Tennessee Register of Deeds Association in 1981.”
Tittle also spoke about following Bennett as the county’s Register of Deeds.
“When I assumed office, I had big shoes to fill as he was so loved by everyone,” she said. “His heart was as big as his smile. Daily I see his name on the record books in the deed room and get to enjoy the accuracy of his record-keeping and the evidence of his leadership.”
She also recalled his occasional visits.
“Whenever he was in the courthouse, it was always nice to see him stick his head in the door and say hello,” Tittle said. “As we researched a record one day, he shared with me some of his favorite memories about his time as register.”
Tittle said that she has learned that recording documents was just one of the many ways Bennett served in the Register’s office.
“Citizens often share with me how he would help with their needs: buying glasses, groceries, paying taxes,” Tittle said. “He also shared his talents with so many civic organizations. When I remember Baldy, I don’t just think of him as a fellow register, but as a good husband, father and grandfather. He loved his Lord, his family and his friends beyond measure. No doubt we will see him again in heaven.”
In addition to serving as Register of Deeds, Bennett served on the Unicoi County Gas Utility District Board for several years and also served as a past president for the Erwin Kiwanis Club.
Current Kiwanis President Sandy Lingerfelt shared some thoughts about Bennett with The Erwin Record.
“Baldy was a sweet man, called everybody honey,” Lingerfelt said. “He was a wonderful family man and raised a precious family. Baldy gave great energy and effort to his church and community, and was always willing to help.”
Bennett was also a member of the Erwin Jaycees and Unicoi Ruritan.
“Baldy Bennett was a friend to all,” said Bill Gaines, an Erwin Kiwanian and Original Jaycee. “He would give you the shirt off his back. He was a true example of Christian love. A true servant’s heart, always honoring God. He was my friend. Family, you have much to be proud of in Baldy’s legacy.”
Bennett worked to serve the community in many other roles as well. He was a Mason and Shriner. He was also an avid supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Voted Soil Conservationist Farmer Of The Year in 2007, Bennett loved farming and had a real passion for raising cattle.
Bennett was an active and charter member of Southside Freewill Baptist Church in Erwin. He was also active with Gideons International.
Bennett was also a charter member of the Southside Volunteer Fire Department in Erwin.