Robert Julian Bentley (born February 3, 1943) is an American politician, medical doctor, the 53rd Governor of Alabama.He assumed the governorship on January 17, 2011, having defeated Ron Sparks, a commissioner, in the 2010 Alabama gubernatorial election. Bentley is a native of Columbiana, Alabama, in Shelby County. His father was David Harford Bentley, and his mother was Mattie Boyd Vick Bentley, neither of whom completed school past junior high. Bentley grew up in Columbiana, where he was a member of Shelby County High School's 1961 state championship debate team, and he became student body president in his senior year of high school.
Bentley is a native of Columbiana, Alabama, in Shelby County. His father was David Harford Bentley, and his mother was Mattie Boyd Vick Bentley, neither of whom completed school past junior high. Bentley grew up in Columbiana, where he was a member of Shelby County High School's 1961 state championship debate team, and he became student body president in his senior year of high school.
After graduating from Shelby County High School at the top of his class, Bentley enrolled at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. While at Alabama, Bentley majored in Chemistry and Biology and graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in three years. From an early age, Robert Bentley wanted to become a physician. After graduating from UA, he began his studies at The University of Alabama School of Medicine. During his first year of medical school, he met Martha Dianne Jones of Montgomery. They were married on July 24, 1965. He graduated with his M.D. in 1968 and began his one year internship at Carraway Methodist Hospital in Birmingham.
Bentley joined the United States Air Force in 1969 as a captain. He served as a general medical officer at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He served as an interim hospital commander for 90 days near the end of his tenure. In June 2010, the president of the Alabama chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America asked for clarification from Bentley regarding advertisements they felt might suggest that he served in the war theater during the Vietnam War. No fault was found in Bentley campaign's ads, as they did not show images that would represent him fighting or treating soldiers in Vietnam.
Following his military service, Bentley began a three-year residency at the University of Alabama in dermatology. He then opened his dermatology practice in Tuscaloosa. He founded a number of small businesses, the most successful of which is Alabama Dermatology Associates. As President of Alabama Dermatology Associates, Bentley managed the practice’s growth into one of the largest dermatology practices in the Southeastern United States.Bentley is a board certified dermatologist, and he served two terms as President of the Alabama Dermatology Society.
He has also been named to “Best Doctors in America,” selected by his peers.Bentley is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and the Medical Association of Alabama.
House of Representatives
In 2002 Bentley was elected to the Alabama State House of Representatives from Tuscaloosa County with almost 65% of the vote. In 2006 Bentley ran unopposed for re-election to the State House. During his time in Montgomery he served on the Education Appropriations Committee, the Boards and Commissions Committee, the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, and was a member of the Tuscaloosa County Legislative Delegation. He also serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Internal Affairs Committee. In the Alabama House of Representatives, Bentley made it a priority to train primary care health care providers and to increase organ donation. He is responsible for two major revisions of Alabama’s organ donor laws: one specific to corneas and the other reinforcing the rights of organ donors by making it difficult to challenge their decisions.Bentley helped establish the Alabama Medical Educational Consortium. His efforts included work on legislation to expand scholarships for medical training. Questions were raised by Sparks camp during the gubernatorial campaign as to whether Bentley's son, while in medical school, benefited from his father's involvement with the consortium.Bentley is opposed to increasing taxes. He has signed the No New Taxes Pledge by the Americans for Tax Reform. In April 2010, Bentley's self-drafted Reemployment Act of 2010 won unanimous approval in both houses of the Alabama State Legislature, and was signed by Governor Bob Riley on April 22nd Bentley was elected as a Republican Presidential Delegate for Mike Huckabee. At the Republican National Convention he represented Alabama on the Republican Platform Committee.
Gubernator of Alabama
In the June 1, 2010 primary race, Bentley surprised political analysts by finishing 2nd ahead of Tim James to reach a runoff election with Bradley Byrne.One of James' supporters, former U.S. Representative Sonny Callahan, endorsed Bentley in the runoff. In the July 13 run-off election, Bentley defeated Bradley Byrne by a 56%-44% margin to claim the Republican nomination for Governor. Bentley came under fire from his opponents and some in the Alabama Republican Party for not completely disagreeing with the Alabama Education Association. He maintains that his record includes votes both for and against the AEA.During the primary runoff, the Alabama Education Association ran a series of ads against Bentley's opponent Bradley Byrne.Bentley has stated he does not approve of gambling in the State of Alabama, but supports a referendum for its citizens to vote on whether to approve its legality. Bentley was criticized by Sparks for allegedly attempting to improve his election chances with voters by being billed on the Republican ticket as Dr. Robert Bentley instead of Robert Bentley. Republican party officials had already denied the Bentley campaign's request by the time of the the accusations.
Robert Bentley and wife Dianne have four sons and five grandchildren. He is an active member of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa where he serves as a Deacon and Sunday School Teacher. At FBC Tuscaloosa, he has been the Chairman of the Board of Deacons four times and a member of the Youth for Christ Advisory Board as well as the Family Counseling Advisory Board. Bentley has also served on the State Advisory Board for Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Currently, he serves on the Board of Trustees for Judson College in Marion, Alabama and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Alabama Medical Education Consortium, which he helped to found. Bentley was the 2009 recipient of the Christian Coalition of Alabama’s Statesmanship Award.Bentley, a long-time season ticket holder for Alabama baseball, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to get the 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide baseball season started.
On January 18, 2011, after his inauguration ceremony, Bentley delivered a speech to a crowd gathered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Bentley's speech included a statement that those who have not accepted Jesus as their savior are not his "brothers and sisters". The Anti-Defamation League called his comments into question, as to whether he can be fair to non-Christians. Bob Bentley issued an apology through his press secretary two days later, saying, "The governor had intended no offense by his remarks. He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike."
May 10th, 2011