Alvin Benn is guest speaker at Rotary

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2006

Montgomery Advertiser reporter Alvin Benn was the guest speaker for the Luverne Rotary Club's April 3 meeting.

Crenshaw County Probate Judge Jim Perdue introduced Benn at the noon luncheon.

&#8220I enjoy covering small towns much more than big towns,” Benn said. &#8220You have the opportunity to get to know the people better.”

Benn was born in Lancaster, Pa., and served six years in the Marine Corps after he graduated from high school. He was stationed at Cherry Point, N.C., where he worked for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. He completed military journalism

school at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. He has won numerous awards for writing, editing and photography during his career, including being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while serving as managing editor at the Natchez Democrat in Miss.

Benn said that he retired about three years ago.

&#8220When I first began my journalism career, I was asked where I wanted to go,” he said. &#8220So, I told them, ‘Where the action is.' They sent me to Birmingham right in the middle of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, so I got what I asked for.”

Benn said that in his new book, &#8220Reporter: Covering Civil RightsŠand Wrongs in Dixie,” there were some funny stories, and some that were not funny.

&#8220Journalism can be a dangerous occupation,” he said. &#8220You must have a thick skin.”

Benn said that one of the most dangerous events he covered happened 42 years ago when he and two others were assigned to cover a Ku Klux Klan meeting.

&#8220We got back to the photographer's car, and someone had slit all four of our tires,” he said. &#8220Believe it or not, the Klansmen passed around a hat and took up money for four new tires for us and got us out of town.”

Sharon, Benn's wife of 41 years, said that she remembered that night vividly.

&#8220That was probably the worst night I had to live through in his career,” she said. &#8220He didn't get home until about 4 a.m., and I was terrified because I hadn't heard from him.”

Benn said that in addition to the civil rights movement, other difficult topics to cover included the race to space with Russia, the Vietnam Conflict and the flower children of the 60s.

&#8220The worst thing was having to interview the families and friends of soldiers who had been killed in Vietnam,” Benn said. &#8220When I would talk with the family, it would sink in that this man's life was over, and I was still alive. I realized just how lucky I was.”

Benn said that he has met a lot of famous people throughout his career.

&#8220However, some of my most favorite assignments were covering Alabama football,” he said, smiling.

Benn's new book, &#8220Reporter,” is a self-published book, which includes commendations from other known authors such as Harper Lee, Kathryn Tucker Windham, Bob Ingram and Paul Finebaum.

After the program, Benn held a book signing for the Rotary Club members.