Dianne Bentley discusses pain of divorce, scandal
By MIKE CASON
Aug. 18, 2017
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Alabama first lady Dianne Bentley, who has stayed out of the spotlight since her divorce two years ago, spoke to Republican women and touched on the painful end to her time as first lady and her 50-year marriage.
Bentley, speaking at a First Ladies' Luncheon held by the Alabama Federation of Republican Women, was quick to acknowledge what she called "the elephant in the room," a sex scandal that engulfed ex-husband Robert Bentley's administration and eventually forced him to resign earlier this year. She went into no details and mentioned no names. But she talked about how much she hurt and how she coped.
"Personally, I am doing OK," Bentley said Wednesday. "The first year, I just became a recluse and didn't get out. I was just in such pain and depression that I didn't want to see anybody, especially media, who were trying to find me. But God is good."
She referred to the poem "Footprints in the Sand" to describe how she endured those difficult days.
"As I look back on that year, God just carried me through," she said. "I wish I could share all the miraculous ways that He took care of me. He sent just a very few close friends who walked with me and talked with me every day and I received so many wonderful cards. I learned the blessings of special friends."
Bentley said she hoped speaking about her ordeal could help others with similar circumstances.
"I know in an audience this size, there are those who have experienced the same pain," she said. "My hurt is not unique, but I pray that God can use it to help others. It has made me more aware of people and their pain."
Bentley said she has moved into a garden home across the street from one of her sons in Tuscaloosa.
"I am serving in my church, taking care of babies, where I was before," she said. "I went on a mission trip to Haiti, and God has given me a new, unique ministry of making salvation dolls for mission trips.
"This summer, I was blessed to receive my ninth grandchild. It was our second little boy to join seven granddaughters."
She said being a grandmother was her favorite role.
Bentley said there are many things she misses about her five years as first lady, including "the sweet children of Alabama that I read to or saw at the mansion."
She talked about what she learned after the epic tornado outbreak that struck the state just a few months after she became first lady, in April 2011.
"I was able to travel to areas of devastation and just hug people," she said. "I wanted to help. I went to volunteer but there were so many volunteers that I had nothing to do. So l learned to love the people of Alabama."
During her time as first lady she advocated for legislation that boosted funding for domestic violence shelters. She urged those in the audience today to continue to support that cause.
"Domestic violence, unfortunately, is a growing issue," she said. "It affects every race, economic group, gender, even your neighbor."
A steady stream of well-wishers greeted and posed for photos with Bentley before and after her remarks.
"I was very impressed with her speech," said Pat Wilson, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Republican Executive Committee. "I thought she did an excellent job. I don't know if I would have had enough courage to stand up and say anything. But her speech was to the point and well said and she got a well-deserved standing ovation."