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Subject: James C. Benfield, 59; Organizer, Activist

professional lobbyist
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Date Posted: November 03, 2002 10:40:39 EDT

James C. Benfield, 59, a lobbyist since about 1980 who was chief financial officer and a partner at Bracy Tucker Brown, the Washington government and public affairs consulting concern, died of a brain tumor Nov. 2 at his home in Takoma Park.

Mr. Benfield, an authority on grass-roots organizing and advocacy, had corporate clients and was often involved in consumer issues, as well as causes including coinage, daylight savings time reform and help for the poor.

He had done work for such clients as the Continental Group, the Clorox Co. and McDonald's. But he made headlines locally for his advocacy efforts, often as a volunteer, managing the Daylight Saving Time Coalition, which he founded, and directing the Coin Coalition and the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance.

Mr. Benfield, who joined what became Bracy Tucker in 1980, was a master at organizing coalitions. In his successful efforts to extend daylight savings time in April, he trumpeted the belief that daylight savings, with its longer hours of afternoon daylight, extended hours of outdoor activity. This helped him secure the support of associations representing amateur softball, barbecue makers, convenience stores, service station dealers, chain restaurants and sporting goods.

His efforts to reform coinage featured drives to replace the dollar bill with a dollar coin, which he pointed out would save the government more than $450 million annually because coins last longer than bills. It helped lead to the Sacagawea dollar coin. Groups that came on board for that campaign included vending businesses and mass transit and amusement park associations.

Another of his great efforts was the Home Energy Assistance Campaign he started in 1993. It now helps 4.3 million households and has secured annual congressional appropriations of $2 billion. His partners in this effort included the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Over the years, Mr. Benfield explained his views on these issues on ABC's "Good Morning America," CNN's "Larry King Live" and on National Public Radio. He wrote for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Des Moines Register. He also lectured at Harvard University and conducted workshops for the Energy Department.

Mr. Benfield, who was born in Philadelphia, was a 1965 economics graduate of Drake University in Iowa. He was an Army photographer in South Korea in 1967 and 1968. He came to the Washington area in the 1970s. Before becoming a professional lobbyist, he held a variety of jobs.

In fact, the collection of jobs he held led to a 1977 profile in The Post. The jobs included public relations director of the National Symphony Orchestra, freelance photographer, and apartment manager and part-time janitor. He also had managed a local chamber music group, had played classical guitar at restaurants and had given guitar lessons.

He assisted the homeless, both with contributions and helping to obtain government aid and secure medical care. He worked with area churches to raise corporate aid for the homeless. The Post wrote about his efforts to raise funds for a sick street musician and after the musician's death, to place a plaque on the wall where he most often performed.

His neighbors remembered him as the guy who hosted community Fourth of July picnics that included the firing of a Civil War canon and pruning trees along railroad rights of way. He also improved a muddy shortcut that commuters took to the local Metro by laying a bed of garbage can lid-size stones. He also was known for always giving a hand, forever taking people into his home who had suffered a tragedy.

His first marriage ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 17 years, Susan Storing Benfield, and two children, Anna Corinne Benfield and Michael Storing Benfield, all of Tacoma Park; his mother, Corinne Benfield of Lombard, Ill.; and a sister.

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