The new National Weather Service office in Jacksonville was dedicated to the memory of a former Meteorologist-in-Charge, Walter James Bennett. Mr. Bennett gave almost 50 years of service to the American public as a U.S. Weather Bureau employee. He started his Weather Bureau career on April 15, 1900. He served at offices near San Francisco, California; Louisville, Kentucky; Washington, D.C.; Charlotte, North Carolina; Canton, New York; and Tampa, Florida before becoming Meteorologist-in-Charge of the Jacksonville Weather Bureau Office in 1932.
As a meteorologist, Mr. Bennett was well known throughout the United States, and his forecasting abilities are legendary in the Jacksonville area. The Jacksonville news media also relied heavily upon his extreme meteorological knowledge, especially with respect to hurricanes. He attended the University of Cincinnati and George Washington University where he graduated in 1905. His meteorological interests were broad. He studied such a topics as the effect of sunspots on weather patterns, the developing science of upper air meteorology, and the use of radar in understanding atmospheric processes in hurricanes. He published scientific articles in various journals including the Monthly Weather Review.
While in charge of the Canton, New York Office, Mr. Bennett also taught at St. Lawrence University. His son, Charles Bennett (later to be a long-serving U.S. Congressional Representative for Jacksonville and north Florida), was born in the Weather Bureau Office in Canton. In 1913 Walter Bennett presaged one of the earliest links between aviation and meteorology by assisting in the formation of a commercial airline between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. He was also in charge of the Jacksonville office when it was established as one of the first Hurricane Forecast offices in the country in 1935.
When Walter J. Bennett retired in 1949, he was honored by his peers, the media, and the public. The Secretary of Commerce came to Jacksonville to participate in the retirement ceremonies. Looking back on his career, Bennett told his son, "...I have not set the world on fire but no one has ever been the worse because of me." The Florida Times Union offered the following tribute: "Walter Bennett was a weatherman who lived close to God."