Christie Benet (December 26, 1879March 30, 1951) was a Life Trustee who was elected in 1929 by the other Life Trustees to fill the position left by the death of Alan Johnstone, president of the board since 1907. Benet Hall is named in his honor. His name is properly pronounced with the French pronunciation - Bun-NAY, not BEN-it.
Born in Abbeville, South Carolina, the son of William C. and Susan Benet, Christie Benet received his education in his hometown, then at South Carolina College, the College of Charleston (AB 1900), and the University of Virginia (LLB 1902). There he earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa and played football. (Reference: Reel, pages 268, 339.)
He returned to Columbia to practice law, serving also as a volunteer football coach for the South Carolina Gamecocks. In the aftermath of South Carolina's upset victory over Clemson on October 31, 1902, he is credited with holding up the brewing confrontation between the students long enough for police to arrive and halt the trouble. (Reel, page 339.) Benet married Alice Van Yeveren Haskell on October 17, 1906, and they had two children, Christie Jr., who died in 1928, and Alice Van Yeveren Benet. He was active in the Episcopal Church, served on the vestry of Trinity Church, Columbia, and on the board of Camp Kanuga, one of the denomination's recreational camps. He was active in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. (Reel, pages 268, 339.)
According to one source, Benet coached the Gamecocks to a 2-6 season in 1909, for a lifetime .250 win-loss ratio. (Reference: http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/coaches/christie-benet-1.html.)
On the state level, he served as served as secretary to the Democratic Party Executive Committee three times. Governor Richard I. Manning appointed him on July 6, 1918 to the U.S. Senate to fill the remainder of Benjamin R. Tillman's term. He did not serve long, until November 5, when a successor to the position was elected; Benet himself was an unsuccessful candidate in the same election to fill the vacancy. He volunteered instead for the American Expeditionary Forces. He also led war bond and Red Cross drives. Before he joined the Clemson board, he had served on one of UVA's boards. (Reel, pages 268-269.) During his brief time in the Senate, Benet was the chairman of the Committee on National Banks; upon his defeat, he resumed his practice. From 1915 he was a member of the board of regents of the South Carolina State Hospital, later becoming the chairman of the board; in this capacity he served until 1946.
During World War II, Benet served as chair of the S.C. War Finance Committee. (Reel, page 339.)
Upon the death of Board President W. W. Bradley in 1948, Benet was elected to replace him, serving until his own death in 1951. "Married and father of a daughter, he strongly urged higher education for women. In his papers is a report in which he wrote, 'It is the glory of this century that now a woman may acquire the higher education without being decided as a blue stocking.'" (Reel, page 339.)
Benet was serving as the chairman of the Alien Enemy Hearing Board for the state's eastern district at his death; he died in Columbia, and was interred locally in Elmwood Cemetery.
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774 - Present, Washington, D.C., http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=B000360.
- Reel, Jerome V., The High Seminary, vol. 1: A History of the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina, 1889-1964, Clemson University Digital Press at the Center for Electronic and Digital Publishing, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, 2011, ISBN 978-0-9842598-9-2, page 54.)
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