Spotlight on Van Alstyne Bill Benton - Benton Luttrell Company
The business was started by R.S. Fulton in 1890. W.D. Benton, a nephew of Fulton’s joined his uncle just after 1900. The two operated the agency until Mr. Fulton’s death in 1942. Benton purchased the agency and ran it until his death in 1945. Not unlike “It’s a Wonderful Life” W.D.’s daughter Billie Whitaker ran the agency for seven months until her brother Henry Benton returned from the war. (A side note to further the “It’s a Wonderful Life” reference: Henry Benton gave up his Command Pilot seat on a B-24 mission over Germany, so that another pilot could be eligible for a battlefield promotion. That pilot: Jimmy Stewart.)
The agency, now involved with Real Estate as well as Insurance, remained a family business. The insurance side was eventually purchased by William “Bill” Benton from his mother. Bill continued the partnership with his grandfather Henry Hynds, and in 1983 purchased the Real Estate operation after Mr. Hynds’ death.
In 1994 the Benton Agency and the Luttrell Agency of Howe merged operations. In 1996 Harold Brown also joined Benton and Luttrell in the Insurance operation.
Today the Agency home is Van Alstyne, operating as the Benton Luttrell Company, and Benton Luttrell Real Estate, remaining family owned for an impressive 129 years.
When you’ve been in business that long, your office should look like a museum. I will say, the conference room did not disappoint. W.D. Benton was also employed with the Leader Publishing Company at the turn of the century. The room has several items from that time frame. Bill was quick to point out a stand up desk at one end of the room. The same desk is in a picture he has of W.D. from the early 1900s. What was intended to be a short 20 minute interview, turned in to an hour and a half long history lesson.
What do you love about VA?
“I think that it has a spirit that was in our founding fathers, that has transcended the generations. It’s wonderful to see people that have moved to VA, that didn’t grow up here, embrace its history and call it their own. There’s just something special here. Our family moved here in the 1840’s and never left.”
“The struggle for VA as it grows is going to be how we maintain in our school system, the underpinnings of what makes us special. What I believe is that people who are looking for great schools for their kids, move to towns that have great schools, so it perpetuates itself, and actually builds on itself.”
Where do you think VA is going?
“Van Alstyne is on the cusp of growth. The challenge is to have neighborhoods that are sustainable. We want neighborhoods with homes that can maintain their value for years to come. Having the foresight to take the growth at a rate that is manageable, for our schools and for our city infrastructure will be invaluable. If we set a standard, builders will meet it in order to come here. We as a city just need to make sure we are comfortable with, and the city will maintain that standard.”
Bill described the downtown buildings as the ‘Jewel of the City’. “No other town between Sherman and McKinney has them. As the city grows, the boutique shops of the downtown area will also see growth. With that growth, the buildings become more valuable and it becomes cost effective to maintain and even renovate.”
In regards to the expected growth Bill ended by quoting a friend who said, “Bill, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s now how you start, it’s how you finish.” “The goal is that Van Alstyne finishes well.”
The Chamber would like to thank Bill Benton for doing business in Van Alstyne, and carrying on the family legacy for 129 years.