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Encyclopedia > Alvin M. Bentley

Alvin Morell Bentley III (August 30, 1918April 10, 1969) was a politician from the U.S. state of Michigan.

Bentley, the only child of Alvin M. Bentley, Jr., and Helen Webb Bentley, was born in Portland, Maine only three months before his father died serving in France during world War I. Although fatherless, Bentley was heir to a family fortune, from his grandfather who founded the Owosso Manufacturing Company.

He graduated from Southern Pines High School, Southern Pines, North Carolina, in 1934 and from the Asheville Prep School, Asheville, North Carolina, in 1936. He received a B.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1940 and attended Turner’s Diplomatic School, Washington, D.C., to qualify for diplomatic service. He served as vice consul and secretary with the Mexico (1942-1944), Colombia (1945-1946), Hungary (1947-Italy (1949-1950). He returned to Washington, D.C., March 15, 1950, for work in the State Department. Disagreeing with the Truman administration's foreign policy, Bentley resigned from the diplomatic service in 1950 and returned to live in Owosso, Michigan. He was a delegate to Republican State conventions in 1950, 1951, and 1952. He was vice president, Lake Huron Broadcasting Company, Saginaw, Michigan, 1952 and the director of Mitchell-Bentley Corporation.

In 1952, Bentley defeated the incumbent Republican U.S. Representative Fred L. Crawford in the primary election for Michigan's 8th District and went on to win in the general election. Bentley was elected to the Eighty-third and to the three succeeding Congresses, serving from January 3, 1953 to January 3, 1961. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1960, instead running for a seat in the United States Senate and losing to Democratic incumbent Patrick V. McNamara in the general elections.

Bentley was one of five Representatives shot on March 1, 1954, in the U.S. Capitol shooting incident when four Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire from the visitors' balcony into the chamber of the United States House of Representatives. Bentley was shot in the chest.

From 1961 to 1962, Bentley was a delegate from the 15th Senatorial District to the Michigan State Constitutional Convention, which produced the Michigan state constitution adopted in 1963. In 1962, Bentley again ran for the U.S. House for a one-term, at-large seat created as a result of the 1960 United States Census, but he lost in the general election to Democrat Neil Staebler. He continued public service by receiving appointments to education-related positions in the state. Also, after leaving Congress in 1961, he had returned to the University of Michigan as a graduate student in the History department. While continuing to maintain offices in Washington, D.C., Bentley commuted by air to Ann Arbor to attend classes. He received a M.A. degree in 1963. In 1966, while pursuing a doctoral degree, Governor George W. Romney appointed him to the board of regents of the University of Michigan, a position he held at the time of his death while on vacation in Tucson, Arizona. He is interred in Oak Hill Cemetery in Owosso, Michigan.


In 1961, Bentley established the Alvin M. Bentley Foundation to support educational, scientific and charitable projects. Through the foundation, Bentley continues to foster acedemic excellence in the state of Michigan. In 1983, the foundation established the Bentley Scholarships at the University of Michigan for Michigan residents who have demonstrated academic excellence and promise. The foundation also sponsors Operation Bentley, "a week-long intensive academic program held at Albion College for high school juniors who have been selected to participate in a rigorous and rewarding study of local, state, and national politics." [1] (http://www.albion.edu/bentley/default.asp)

In 1967, he contributed money to the University of Michigan to establish an endowed professorship in the Department of History in memory of his parents.

In the mid_1960s, Bentley served as chairman of the Michigan Freedom from Hunger Council, a humanitarian organization set up to gather, interpret, and disseminate information about hunger problems in the world, especially in the Western Hemisphere. Bentley also chaired the Michigan branch of the Partners of the Alliance, an organization that had begun nationally in 1964, to act as a channel through which civic clubs, unions, business and professional groups, school and individuals could work directly with groups, villages, or areas in Latin America to improve the way of life in that particular area. The objective was not charity, but the promotion of self_help programs. The State of Michigan took British Honduras (Belize) as its partner.

In 1971, his wife, Arvella D. (Billie) Bentley, gave a generous donation to the University of Michigan's "Michigan Historical Collections", enabling it to construct a new building which was subsequently renamed the Bentley Historical Library.

This article incorporates facts obtained from the public domain Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.



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