A native of Mobile, Alabama, Doris Marie Bender was the oldest of
four children born to Mary Frances McCafferty Bender and Theodore Jackson
Bender. After the death of her mother, she helped to rear her three younger
brothers and sisters. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the
University of Alabama and had graduate training in the field of social work at
Tulane University and the University of Chicago.
Miss Bender started her career in
public welfare in 1933 with the Mobile County Relief Administration. She served
as director of Public Welfare (later changed to the Department of Pensions and
Security, now the Department of Human Resources) in Shelby, Macon, and
Montgomery counties and worked on the state staff prior to being appointed
director in Mobile County in December 1943. There she served for thirty-three
years until her retirement in 1976.
During the course of her forty-three year career, she made outstanding
contributions to the field of public welfare and the profession of social work.
The first organized volunteer division in a county Department of Pensions and
Security was started during her administration. She was on the committee which
developed the Alabama Office of Volunteerism, an agency of state government,
and she served on its Board of Directors. Miss Bender's vision led to the
Mobile County Department of Pensions and Security Office to create an adult
foster care program for the elderly and disabled victims of abuse and neglect,
including self-neglect. She also initiated an adult homemaker services program
that was designed to delay nursing home admission for people who could no
longer provide all of their own care. Using these programs as models, the
Alabama Department of Pensions and Security developed a statewide program for
adult foster care which was authorized in 1972 and the statewide homemaker
services program which began in 1973. She appointed the first black social
worker in a county department in 1946, and was an advocate for fairness and
opportunity for all, regardless of race and other differences.
Miss Bender was the first woman selected from outside the University of
South Alabama staff to serve on the Admissions Committee of the USA School of
Medicine, the first woman to be elected to the Board of Directors of First
Southern Federal Savings and Loan Association, and the first woman to serve on
the Board of Trustees of Spring Hill College.
Doris Bender's competence, integrity, and wisdom, along with the manifold
accomplishments that marked her career, serve as an example for all.