(October 19, 1899-February 6, 1998)
Iowa State postgraduate student; Assistant and Associate Professor, Marketing Specialist Extension Service; Professor, Information Service, Cooperative Extension Service; and farm market reporter for WOI Radio and Television.
Ronald was born on October 19, 1899 on his family farm near Union, Marshall County, Iowa, the youngest of eight children of David Waldo Bentley and Eunice Etta Marshall Bentley. Shortly thereafter the family moved to a wheat farm in North Dakota and then to a cattle ranch in South Dakota. When he was six, his brothers dressed him in high top boots, stood him on a table, and tried to teach him a dance to the tune of “Captain Jinks.” From that time he was known as “Cap” Bentley.
A year later Cap's father died, the ranch was sold, and Cap was sent to live with his uncles on their farms in North Dakota. He finished growing up in North Dakota and served in the U. S. Army from January-December, 1918 with the rank of private and was trained in Idaho. He then enrolled at North Dakota Agricultural College. He graduated with a BS degree in animal husbandry in 1923 and an MS degree the following year in agricultural economics. He then took a year to work as a research assistant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and as store manager of a Piggly Wiggly grocery store.
In 1926, Bentley returned to Iowa and enrolled at Iowa State in a postgraduate program in agricultural economics and was appointed as a Research Fellow. In 1927, he joined the Iowa State staff and worked as a research assistant in agricultural economics but also took additional course work and taught classes. He also worked as a part time market specialist for Iowa State's Agricultural Extension Service and dealt mostly with cooperatives and grain marketing. In 1931, he took a year for additional graduate work at Harvard University and then returned to Iowa State. In 1935, he was appointed assistant professor as a marketing specialist in the Extension Service. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1945, and to Professor for Information Service in the Cooperative Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics in 1959. He was also the principle economist of the Production and Marketing Administration for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1942-1943. Also, in his early years at Iowa State, he married Alice Eleanor Heald at Mount Pleasant, Iowa on August 17, 1929. They had one son, Robert Heald Bentley.
Bentley's work with the extension service brought him in contact with all parts of the Iowa farm economy. He gradually developed the idea that farmers and others in agricultural industries needed quicker and more complete market information. He knew that the information existed and that, “it was just a matter of getting it to the people who needed it, when it would do them the most good.” Iowa State had started a rudimentary form of farm market reporting on its radio station, WOI, as early as 1921 with Andy Woolfries, an Iowa State biology student, using wireless telegraphy. The following year, voice transmission began, and in 1926 the USDA provided WOI with a direct leased-wire market news source.
By 1943, Bentley concluded that WOI's farm market coverage could be significantly improved and expanded from its irregularly scheduled 20 minute daily broadcasts and its narrow focus on reporting. Following a six-month study, the station's management decided to give Bentley's suggestions a short trial. The result was a career for Bentley starting in the spring of 1944 for the next 21 years as the market news reporter for WOI Radio and, starting in 1950 WOI Television. It started with Bentley delivering the broadcasts and also directing the service. He established a regular schedule of half-hourly broadcasts to put up-to-the-minute market information on the air. His broadcasts also provided a wider range of commodity reporting. He successfully sought the support of the U.S.D.A., farm organizations, commodity dealer groups, the livestock and packing industry, and various news media. He obtained tickers that reported directly from the Chicago Grain Exchange and other markets, and publications of Iowa State, the U.S.D.A., and private and commercial agencies.
Starting in 1950, Cap Bentley also began reporting on WOI Television. By his retirement in 1965, WOI carried 72 minutes of straight market news daily on the radio and a 5-minute noon live telecast on television daily. He filmed a weekly 3-minute summary report that was distributed to 14 television stations on the perimeter of the WOI broadcasting range. He also taped a weekly 6½ minute summary report that went to 26 Iowa and out-of-state radio stations. As as result, listeners in Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas could hear his reports.
Bentley received significant news media coverage in the summer of 1958 when he organized and led Iowa farmers and agribusiness men on tours of western Europe and the Soviet Union. He led subsequent tours in the summers of 1959 and 1960. In 1962, he led a similar tour through Alaska, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Hawaii. While in Hong Kong, he visited a refugee aid mission established by Promise, Inc., a non-profit medical, educational, and religious organization founded by Dr. Pak Chue Chan, a past associate professor of hygiene at Iowa State.
Bentley announced his retirement effective on June 1, 1965. At that time he was a member of the American Farm Economics Association and Sigma Delta Chi (professional journalism.) On September 1, 1965 he became executive director of the Ames chapter of Promise, Inc. After a number of years there, he retired from that position, moved to Sun City, Arizona, and lived there for many years.
Ronald Charles “Cap” Bentley died at Sun City on February 6, 1998. He was interred in Ames Municipal Cemetery.
The principal source of information on Cap Bentley was found in the Ronald C. Bentley Papers RS 13/9/53, Box 13, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University. Biographical information includes several biographical profiles, newspaper clippings, Iowa State Information Services releases, and Bentley's own Faculty Personnel Information form from 1963.
Audio tapes can be found in the Herbert Plambeck Papers RS 21/7/42, Box 37, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives.
Reel to reel tapes can be found in Promise, Inc. Records, MS 585, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives.
Family information was found on Public Member Family Trees on ancestryinstitution.com.
Interment information was found on FindaGrave.com.