Howard Edsel "Ed" Benson

August 30, 1921March 31, 2018

Howard Edsel “Ed” Benson August 30, 1921 – March 31, 2018

Native Athenian, businessman and civic leader Howard Edsel Benson died at age 96 after a brief illness brought on by a concussion. He was predeceased by his parents William Howard Benson and Lottie Moor Benson and his sister Beverly Benson Long.

Ed is survived by his wife of 44 years, Robin Jones Benson, daughter Sally Benson of Atlanta, son Larry Benson (Pam) of Athens, four grandchildren, five great grandchildren, brother-in-law Dr. Maurice Long of Atlanta, nieces and nephews, and his friend and mentee of 27 years, Kevin Epps (Sarah).

Upon graduation from the University of Georgia in 1942, where he earned a business degree and lettered on the UGA golf team, Ed was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and proudly served during World War II in England, North Africa, and Italy. When he left active duty in 1945 as a captain, he spent six months in Chicago studying at the National Institute of Baking.

Ed returned to Athens to work full-time at Benson’s Bakery and attend graduate school. He soon joined the Rotary Club of Athens and quickly took to heart the Rotary motto SERVICE ABOVE SELF. While still a very young man he was President of the Rotary Club of Athens and then served as District Governor, at that time the youngest person ever to serve as a District Governor of Rotary International.

For the next sixty years Ed happily worked “to make Athens a better place in which to live.” He supported countless civic and youth organizations and was fundraising chairman for several building projects —- Athens First United Methodist Church, the Salvation Army Chapel, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Athens, and the YMCA. Other organizations and projects he served are too numerous to mention. At age 70 he was a founder of the Athens/Clarke County Mentor Program. And, at age 80, he began delivering “Meals on Wheels,” a service he continued well into his nineties. Ed followed in his father’s footsteps helping to bring together the “Two Athens.” In 1986, Ed and Michael Thurmond founded the Listen, Learn and Lead group (LLL) comprised of multi-racial community, business, and political leaders. For over 30 consecutive years, the LLL group has met monthly and addressed the major issues facing the Athens community without seeking credit or attribution.

Because of his devotion to his alma mater he contributed over the years serving as Vice Chair and Treasurer of the UGA Foundation, Chairman of the President’s Club, member of the Athletic Board and Chair of UGA’s 28th Annual Fund. In 2015, he was the recipient of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Order of Achievement for outstanding success in his profession. Other prominent recipients include Former U.S. President Harry Truman and Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun.

His latest contribution to UGA was recognized last summer with the naming of Benson Hall, a major part of the new Terry College of Business Learning Center. Ed and his son, Larry, are the 2018 recipients of the UGA Alumni Association Family of the Year award. Ed is also the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished American Award presented by the Georgia Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

Ed often spoke proudly of the strongest influences in his life: church, family, and the Athens community including the University of Georgia and the Athens Rotary Club.

The family would like to thank St. Mary’s Hospital and the St. Mary’s Hospice House for their kindness and compassionate care.

He will lay in state on Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at Bernstein Funeral Home located at 3195 Atlanta Highway, Athens, Georgia 30606 to be followed by a private burial with the Benson’s Incorporated Board of Directors serving as pallbearers.

The Memorial Service will take place on Thursday, April 5th, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. at Athens First United Methodist Church located at 327 North Lumpkin Street, Athens, Georgia 30601 to be followed by a reception in Hancock Hall. The honorary pallbearers will be the Tuck Sunday School Class and Rotary Club of Athens.

The Memorial Service may be viewed online at:

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Benson Community Fund at the Athens Area Community Foundation, PO Box 1543, Athens, GA 30603 or to a charity of your choice.

Bernstein Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


  • Benson Community Fund at Athens Area Community Foundation


  • Lying in State Wednesday, April 4, 2018
  • Memorial Service Thursday, April 5, 2018

Howard Edsel "Ed" Benson

have a memory or condolence to add?

Anton Zellman

April 3, 2018

Shared a few minutes when I was a speaker at the Club and interacted with Ed with a Mental Demonstration.

Love and sympathy to Ed's family and fellow Rotarians

Anton Zellman