April 26, 1935 – July 27, 2023
Billy Graves (Bill) Benton, age 88, of Chapin, South Carolina, passed away on Thursday, July 27, 2023, surrounded by his family at home. Born on April 26, 1935, in Clarksville, Tennessee, he was the son of the late Hazel Frances Graves Benton Huston and the late James William Benton, Jr. Bill graduated from West End High School in Nashville, TN, attended Furman University and graduated from The Tennessee School of Broadcasting. Bill married his high school sweetheart, Sallie Lou Smith in 1953. Bill and Sallie were married for 69 years, and have lived in the Columbia and Chapin areas since 1963.
Serving in the Air National Guard and Reserves, Bill was Honorably Discharged in 1961.
Prior to moving to Columbia, South Carolina and WIS Radio in 1963, Bill worked at WLFA Radio in LaFayette, Georgia; WENO Radio in Nashville, Tennessee; WAPX Radio, WSFA-TV, and WCCB-TV in Montgomery, Alabama. While living in LaFayette he owned three record shops in north Georgia. Bill was with WIS Radio from I963 to 1976, being known primarily for the “Bill Benton Talk Show,” which began in December of 1964, and his Thursday night “Ghost Stories” program. During that time Bill also worked on WIS-TV. In 1976 Bill and three partners, Dennis Waldrop, Gene McKay, and Dave Wright, bought station WSCQ-FM (Sunny 100) in West Columbia, South Carolina, from which he continued the “Bill Benton Talk Show” and his Thursday night “Ghost Stories” program. In 1994 he was recognized by the governor and legislature of South Carolina on the 30th Anniversary of his talk show.
In March of 1988 Bill and his partners bought “The Independent News of Irmo “Weekly newspaper. Bill wrote a weekly column for that paper as well as for “Carolina Outdoors” hunting and fishing paper, and “The Sunny I00 Record”. The partners sold the radio station in 1997.
Bill’s talk show was a public forum for the Midlands of South Carolina, giving people and subjects of importance a chance to be heard as well as giving the public access to these people and to experts on these subjects. He has interviewed every Governor of South Carolina since 1964, as well as our Senators and Representatives, both of The United States and of South Carolina. To indicate the extent of diversity of his guests, a few of them are William Neuhouser, President, Maritime Council; Dr. William Brannon, Professor of Neuropsychiatry; Bill Emerson, Editor of Newsweek; Mary Green, Psychic; Tristan Jones and James Dickey, authors; Paul Harvey and Lowell Thomas, newscasters and entertainers like Tom Jones and Tom Selleck. His guests also included marriage counselors, spiritual advisors, law enforcement officers, specialists in many medical fields, and civic leaders promoting opportunities available in the Midlands.
Bill was a member of Riverland Hills Baptist Church. He was an avid reader and enjoyed hunting, boating, and hiking. He and Sallie were members of The Good Time Steak Club and enjoyed entertaining friends and family. He also enjoyed the sport of Karate and was a 1972 Georgia Karate Champion. He participated in the I994 Senior Olympics, throwing the discus, running the 200-meter dash, and winning both events. He taught a boys’ Sunday School Class at North Trenholm Baptist Church in Columbia, SC. As a boy growing up in Guthrie, Kentucky he enjoyed being in The Boy Scouts of America. While in Lafayette, Georgia, he was the Boy Scout Master and in SC he served as District Chairman Central South Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He has served as a volunteer with Project Love in Lexington School District V, speaking at Chapin, Brookland Cayce, and Airport High Schools. He served as a member of The Board of Visitors of Columbia College and as President of Congaree Broadcasters, Inc. and achieved 32nd Degree Mason.
Numerous awards in the Field of Broadcasting have been presented to Bill, including “The United States and South Carolina Wildlife Federation Award for South Carolina Broadcaster of the Year Communications Award”. Others have been presented from Palmetto Girls State, the Mental Health Association, Mid-Carolina Council on Alcoholism, The Air Force ROTC, and The Green Beret Unit of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The Key to the City of Columbia, South Carolina was presented to him by The Honorable Bob Coble, Mayor. ln 1975 Bill was declared Honorary Sergeant-At-Arms of the Tennessee House of Representatives by then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ned R McWherter. In l 977 Bill was honored as a Kentucky Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky, The Honorable Julian M. Carroll, as well as being given the Key to the City of Guthrie, Kentucky, his hometown, by The Honorable Albert Marshall, Mayor.
Governor David M. Beasley bestowed the highest honor of the State of South Carolina, “The Order of the Palmetto”, to Bill on his birthday, April 26,1996. He was also declared a Palmetto Gentleman. He was a proud member of the Irmo Navy and was a Chapin Air Raid Warden.
With his partners and co-owners of WSCQ-FM, Bill received “The Columbia Sales and Marketing Executives Top Management Award” for 1993. They also received the “Take Pride in America National Award” presented by President Ronald Reagan in the Rose Garden of the White House in 1988.
On January 16, 2004, Bill received the distinction of Honorary Life Membership in the South Carolina Broadcasters Association. This award is “ln Recognition of Significant Lifetime Achievement in The South Carolina Broadcasting Industry as an Outstanding Broadcaster and Community Servant while advancing the standards of broadcasting throughout His Career”.
Bill continued to serve the Midlands of South Carolina through “Good Morning Columbia” on WISW-AM as co-host with Doug Enlow and Charlie Benton. They continued to be recognized by the community for their integrity in broadcasting and advertising. Lexington Medical Foundation recognized them in 2003 for their many contributions. They promoted The Columbia Chamber of Commerce and The West Columbia Chamber of Commerce by broadcasting live from their monthly meetings. Their efforts raised considerable amounts of money for shoes for midland children through the Salvation Army Shoe Fund and for Carolina Children’s’ Home. Bill resigned from WISW-AM in March, 2012. Bill, Doug, and Charlie then continued “Good Morning Columbia” on WWNU 92.1 FM through 2013.
Bill is survived by his four children, James W. “Bill” Benton (Penny), Charles Earl Benton, Sr. (Fran), Frances Louellen Benton, Beth Benton Gantt. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Brandi Benton (Carol), James W. “Bill” Benton IV; Sallie Williams, Charles E. Benton, Jr. (Heather), Caroline Jorgensen (Rick), Rebecca McCoy (Joe), Chelsea Jones (Dan), Stevi Gantt, and Richard Gantt IV (Madalin) and great-grandchildren, Christian, Brandon, and Elliott Jorgensen, Elise and Hazel Benton, McKinley and Colter Jones, Hannah Benton, Garrett and Evan Williams, Ciara, Bentley and Kai Gojan, and Molly Grace Gantt. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
A special Thank You to, Prisma Hospice home care team, DayBreak Adult Day Care and First Light for taking care of his needs over the last year. Special thanks to Lee T., Erin W., Charles P., Cindy W., and Dr. Erin McElveen of Prisma Hospice team.
Visitation was held at Temples-Halloran Funeral Home, 5400 Bush River Road, Columbia, SC, 29212, Wednesday, August 2, 2023, from 3pm to 6pm. The funeral service for Mr. Benton will be held Thursday, August 3, 2023, at 11:00am at Riverland Hills Baptist Church, Columbia, South Carolina. The Reverend Bill Haselden will officiate. Interment will follow the service at Bush River Memorial Gardens.
Serving as pallbearers are Bill Benton IV, Richard Gantt IV, Charlie Benton, Jr., Dan Jones, Rick Jorgensen, and Joe McCoy.