Senator Robert Bennett 1933-2016—A True Friend of Pioneer Heritage
The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area has lost a hero in the passing of former Sen. Robert Bennett who sponsored the National Mormon Pioneer Heritage Act, which brought the MPNHA into being.
Sen. Bennett, 82, died May 4 of complications related to a recent stroke. He also had pancreatic cancer.
Sen. Bennett introduced his bill to create the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area during the 107th Congress (January 2001-2003). In his introduction, the senator spoke passionately about the need to preserve the rich pioneer heritage of the MPNHA:
“Spanning 250 miles from the small town of Fairview, Utah, southward to our border with Arizona, the area encompassed by the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area Includes outstanding examples of historical, cultural, and natural resources shaped by Mormon pioneers. The story of the Mormon pioneers is one of the most compelling and captivating in our nation’s history. After traveling 1,400 miles from Illinois either by wagon or by pulling a handcart, the pioneers came to the Great Salt Lake Valley, “ he said. “Along the way, the pioneers experienced many hardships…Many people died during their journey… The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area will serve as special recognition to the people and places that have contributed greatly to our nation’s development. Throughout the heritage area are wonderful examples of architecture…and cultural events…that demonstrate the way of life of the pioneers.”
The senator fought tirelessly to ensure passage of the bill, which after being passed by the Senate, received the support of the House of Representatives on July 24, 2006. The Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Oct. 12, 2006.
Sen. Bennett’s love for the area grew out of the many trips he took through the state campaigning for his father U.S. Senator Wallace Foster Bennett.
In a Discovery Road episode “Discovery Road – ANHA Tour” he spoke of those experiences:
“With the development of the Interstate…it had the effect of leaving [Highway] 89 behind,” he said. “It meant it left a lot of history behind…It’s important that history not be lost.”
“The MPNHA and its people owe so much to the vision of Sen. Bennett and his commitment to preserving the rich history of the area,” said MPNHA Director Monte Bona. “We mourn the loss of a true friend and offer our condolences to Sen. Bennett’s family and loved ones.”
Sen. Bennett had a long and distinguished political career, serving three terms as a U.S. senator.