Kight, Bennett

ajc.com

KIGHT, Bennett

August 13, 1940 -

June 21, 2022

Age 81. Just after the Winter Solstice 2016, Bennett took a fall on the home stretch of his five-mile dog walk, broke three ribs and "bonked his head" (his words), literally tipping him into what became the final chapter of his life. The book closed with his death at home in the early hours of the Summer Solstice 2022. His sweet and gentle mother Melba, of a poetic bent, would have noted and found something mystical in that, and those who knew her might even see her hand in the merciful timing. Bennett was an invalid in those years, not very mobile and with a form of slowly progressive dementia that targeted judgment and his brilliant ability to penetrate (and, it must be admitted, create) complexities. He managed these impairments with grace and good humor. He suffered a series of seizures/strokes beginning in early May that dramatically affected brain function and physical coordination, and died peacefully two days after the last incident.

Bennett's name means "blessed." It was his mother's maiden name, and was NEVER shortened except by an idiot ski instructor who kept calling him "Bennie," but on account of the blizzard underway during the lesson, Bennett may not have heard him. It was the exact right name for him, signaling both his position in the family and promise that a divine hand would be at work in his life. For instance:

- He made it through his scorched-tire James-Dean adolescence with near-misses but not disaster, in large part because his beloved Aunt Gladys intervened and got him to Dallas and SMU and out of Dodge (well, Waycross).

- He became a young husband and father, which focused his wonderful mind.

These were blessings he counted his entire life. Bennett was his best, though not perfect, self as a father to his son, Rob – better past the early childhood years, and never quitting his paternal watchpost. He was a much better ex-husband than husband to Rob's mother, Aleene, a better son to his parents in adulthood than in childhood and adolescence, and a better brother to his sisters Bonnie and Linda then as well. He was completely smitten with Melissa and Amy, his dazzllng, intelligent granddaughters, and an adoring fan - of their mother Lora as well. He loved his family, close and extended, through marriage and blood, and stepped up and stood up for them in the manner that was expected of Southern males of his generation.

But Bennett brought more to it than upbringing: he could write, he could argue, and in Churchillian fashion, he NEVER gave in, coupling these skills with flashes of brilliant, sometimes confounding, insight and clarity. He was there for his family, his friends and his clients with a steadfastness, even stubbornness, steeped in conviction. On balance, his attention was something to be grateful for, but there is probably no one he truly cared for who did not on occasion want to throttle him – there being no other way to get him to turn loose.

Bennett would have been the first to confess a multitude of deficiencies, but was most wistful about his lack of organizing skills. It was a trait he admired enormously in others and he cultivated an extraordinary gift for enlisting the help of truly outstanding people who had that talent, kicking it off in law school with Lewis Sapp, note-taker extraordinaire. More broadly, he was perceptive in seeing excellence and integrity in others and had a reverence - near hero-worship - for the men who invited him to join them as a partner of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan. He prized his partnership in that firm second only to being the father to Rob, who it turned out managed to inherit/cultivate the qualities Bennett admired so greatly in those men.

Parts of Bennett's life that had been characteristic fell away after the fall, most prominently his dog-walking and mountain climbing, the harder and sweatier, the better - even when he still smoked. Especially when he still smoked. He finally gave up his quest for a car he would like better than the 740i he already owned, and stopped shopping for electronics he would never actually purchase (or would purchase and return) because he always wanted the announced but still unavailable next model. He lost the competitiveness that manifested early on as cut-throat play against his little sisters in Monopoly and went on in more controlled form with unending bets with his brother-in-law Rick Allen over almost anything. Actually, over ANYTHING.

Some things did not change. Bennett's standards for writing stood strict and sterling – he complained about little, but would not tolerate sorry reading material on his iPad Pro. He never failed to brighten when his dog Cody or his son Rob came in the room – equally outstanding representatives of their species. His Southern manners held throughout: he was unfailingly polite to all visitors and continued to the very last ride to insist on opening the car door for Judy, who was always their driver. And, probably surprising no guy, even when Bennett lost dependable recall of seeing the Braves win the World Series from one of the best seats at Turner Field, and his presence with Rob at two Duke national championships and an overtime win against the Hated Heels, he could and did follow the Braves and Coach K's final year in a way that astonished Judy - a fan, but never absolutely sure of what she was watching.

Judith Cochran Kight loved him for nearly 50 years. When she reminded him of that very recently, he replied, "And I, you," a master of wordcraft to the end.

To those reading this who befriended Bennett over his lifetime, a phrase he often used: many thanks. Bennett will be buried in a private ceremony in his family's cemetery in Millwood, GA. As desired, gifts in his name can be given to The Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy (https://blueridgebartram.org/become-a-member-by-donating/) and The Caring Fund at M.D. Anderson (https://www.mdanderson.org/donors-volunteers/donate/md-anderson-caring-fund.html) – the first preserving a trail he and a trusty bird-dog buddy covered on countless hikes in Highlands, and the second offering special help to employees of M.D. Anderson, where he was treated for prostate cancer, and whose kind and competent staff impressed him mightily.