AUBURN – Veteran journalist Al Benn will bring the experience and anecdotes of nearly a half-century in journalism when he visits Auburn University as the 2012 speaker for the Neil and Henrietta Davis Lecture Series. Benn will speak Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. in the Dixon Auditorium of the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center.
Since his retirement from the Montgomery Advertiser in 2003, Benn has remained an active journalist through his popular “Al Benn’s Alabama” feature, as well as other projects.
His 32 years with the Advertiser resulted in thousands of stories and photographs – not only about breaking news events, but also relating the stories of hundreds of everyday Alabamians.
It earned him recognition as “Distinguished Alabama Community Journalist” by the Auburn University Journalism Advisory Council in 2007.
He also has been named a recipient of the 2012 Alabama Press Association Lifetime Achievement Award. He will receive the award at the APA winter meeting, five days before his lecture at Auburn.
“Being named a Davis Lecture Series speaker is the highlight of my nearly half century as a journalist,” Benn said. “Joining such outstanding reporters, editors and authors as Ray Jenkins, Wayne Greenhaw, Cynthia Tucker and Rheta Grimsley-Johnson is personal recognition that I will always cherish.”
As a new reporter with at the United Press International Birmingham bureau in 1964, Benn found himself immersed in the civil rights movement, reporting on bombings, demonstrations, school integrations and trials.
After leaving UPI in 1967, Benn edited newspapers in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia before joining the Advertiser in 1979.
Benn is also an Armed Forces veteran, having served in the Marines for six years after high school, during which time he gained journalism experience at base newspapers in the Carolinas and as a broadcaster in Okinawa.
The Davis Lecture Series was established in 1996 to honor the late Neil O. and Henrietta W. Davis and encourage excellence in journalism. The series features distinguished journalists who can inspire students to follow the spirit and the principles embodied in the couple’s life and work.
Neil Owen Davis founded The Lee County Bulletin in 1937 and served as publisher and editor for 40 years. He was a 1935 Auburn graduate and a Nieman Fellow whose incisive editorials won state and national awards and were reprinted in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Louisville Courier-Journal and The Atlanta Constitution.
Henrietta Worsley Davis, also a 1935 graduate, was the newspaper’s associate editor and chief reporter. Her precise and complete coverage of civic matters, particularly education, made The Bulletin a staple in Auburn homes and a model for weekly newspapers across the nation.
The couple devoted their professional lives to making their newspaper an agent for positive change in the community, giving a voice to the voiceless and advancing the cause of civil rights in Alabama and throughout the Southeast. Neil Davis also taught journalism courses at Auburn University.
The Davises’ purchase of The Tuskegee News to provide coverage of the black community in Macon County and their responsible reporting on events such as the desegregation of Auburn University and Auburn’s public schools are widely considered vital acts of leadership during troubled times. Both have been inducted into the Alabama Press Association’s Hall of Honor on the Auburn campus.
The Davis Lecture is endowed by the gifts of the Davis family and friends, distinguished journalists, their newspapers and Auburn University alumni and faculty.