By Wayne Stewart
As the people of Palestine and Anderson County mourn the passing of Bascom Bentley III, it presents a time to reflect on a true life of service.
For nearly all his adult life, retired 369th District Court Judge Bascom Bentley, worked in some public capacity, whether it was serving as the Palestine City Attorney in the late 1970s, or as Anderson County Attorney; then as the Anderson County Court at Law judge from 1982 to 1989, when he was appointed the 369th District Judge, where he served until he retired earlier this year. His truly was a life dedicated to public service.
Judge Bentley died Monday, Dec. 11 of complications from a heart attack. He was 66.
During his time on the bench Bentley presided over some notable trials. He was known as a fair judge; while at the same time his character shined through, a trip to his office showed a more whimsical side of the judge as mounds of football and other historical memorabilia leaked out of his office and into the adjacent halls. It could be said of him he was a character with a lot of character.
Paul Stone, a former reporter who covered many trials in Judge Bentley’s courtroom, remembered him fondly.
“Judge Bentley was an original,” Stone recalled. “He had a passion for the law, for justice, but he loved other things too. He loved history and the Texas Longhorns and he would debate sports, life — anything in a respectful manner.
“His passing is a tremendous loss for Palestine and Anderson County. He knew former presidents, but he was always the same person around common folks and around presidents… God didn’t create any more like him.”
No visit to the historic and beautiful Anderson County Courthouse would be complete without a stop by Judge Bentley’s office.
His life wasn’t just spent in a courtroom, though, as he also taught classes at Trinity Valley Community College in Palestine in both history and government for 37 years sharing his passion for the law and for history with the future generations.
Walk inside the Brookshire Grocery Store in Palestine and look at the historic, life-sized photos lined up along the walls of the stores; in the corners can be seen, “Donated by Bascom Bentley.” The Judge loved his community and spent his life giving back to it.
“Bascom Bentley was a giant of Palestine,” noted Palestine City Manager Michael Hornes. “Judge Bentley epitomized public service for not only the City of Palestine, but for Anderson County and the State of Texas. He has shown us all the great heights one can achieve, and still give back to a community he loved and always called home.
“On behalf of the City of Palestine, I wish to extend heartfelt condolences to his loving wife Carol and their children.”
Judge Bentley is survived by his wife Carol and four children. Arrangements for Judge Bentley are under the direction of Harrington / Land of Memory Funeral Home in Palestine.