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Dianne Bentley, my friend, we are in your corner

Alabama's former First Lady Dianne Bentley discusses her domestic violence initiatives with Yellowhammer News (File Photo)
Alabama’s former First Lady Dianne Bentley discusses her domestic violence initiatives with Yellowhammer News (File Photo)

By Muriel Farley

My husband, Allen Farley, is a member of the Alabama House of Representatives. On August 28th of 2015, we received news that Alabama’s First Lady Dianne Bentley was divorcing Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, her husband of fifty years.

Needless to say we were shocked and saddened.

You see, we had been hearing rumors about the governor and his senior advisor, Rebekah Mason, for some time. But, we thought they were just rumors. The day after the divorce was announced Allen’s phone started ringing like crazy. Television anchors and news media reporters were calling to get my husband’s reaction to this unbelievable news the entire world had just received. Alan Collins from Fox 6 News came to our house to interview Allen. At the end of the interview my husband told Alan Collins that he would write a letter to Attorney General Luther Strange asking for an investigation. My husband said there could have possibly been a misuse of state funds that could include the governor’s state trooper security detail, state cars, state planes, and state helicopters.

That being said, my husband wrote the letter and we delivered it to the Alabama Attorney General’s office the very next day, September 1,2015. The AG was not in, so Allen gave the letter to a member of his staff. We believed the AG’s office immediately began looking into this matter, but we’re not sure.

When more allegations came to light about the governor, media outlets once again started contacting my husband for an interview. Not only were they asking about the letter to the AG, but now they were also very interested in a telephone call Allen received the night of August 31, 2015 from the governor. You see, when the governor called my husband, the world had not heard the audio sext tapes. And, during the governor’s telephone conversation with Allen, he told my husband he had not been involved in an affair and he didn’t believe Allen needed to get Luther involved in it personally.

Last week my husband received a call from a New York magazine wanting an interview to discuss his opinion of Alabama’s governor. I was sitting in Allen’s office in Montgomery during the interview. Jason Zengerle of “GQ Magazine” was the interviewer. I mentioned that I was a member of the Alabama Legislative Spouse’s Club, and Dianne Bentley had hosted a monthly bible study that I enjoyed attending. I explained that Dianne would invite members of the Legislative Spouse’s Club to a monthly bible study along with other lady friends from Tuscaloosa and around Alabama. (I also mentioned that I considered Dianne Bentley my friend.) Jason asked me if I had reached out to my friend Dianne Bentley during this devastating time. I said no. (I actually hung my head in shame and said no.) This stayed on my mind the rest of the day. How could I have not contacted my friend. This lady who lead me in prayer month after month. The sweet grandmother (our First Lady) who would walk the halls of the State House bringing her granddaughter to page, as I had also done with two of our granddaughters and a grandson.

Sitting in the gallery of the Alabama State House last Thursday, I asked my friend Danna Standridge if she had reached out to our friend Dianne Bentley. (Danna is the wife of State Representative David Standridge.) She is also a member of the Alabama Legislative Spouse’s Club. She said no, but she wanted to. I believe she and I both just didn’t know how or what to say. We were both hurting . But, we decided right there we were going to find out how to contact our friend, and we did.

I met Danna in her husbands office Thursday afternoon while our husbands were in session. Before calling Dianne, Danna and I prayed and cried. We prayed for the Lord to give us the right words to say to our friend. On the second ring she answered. Oh what a sweet sound. This was the sweet voice that prayed with us at her bible studies. I could picture her in my mind standing in front of us at The Hill House next to the governor’s mansion in Montgomery. Her eyes sparkling when she smiled. (I read somewhere that she is shy, but I never saw that side of her.) She greeted each guest at the front door and mingled with whomever showed up for her one-of-a-kind bible study. (She always introduced the bible study speaker with such enthusiasm.)

Dianne Bentley and guests at the Governor's Mansion bow their heads in prayer. (Photo: Murial Farley)
Dianne Bentley and guests at the Governor’s Mansion bow their heads in prayer. (Photo: Muriel Farley)

That was 2011 through 2014. I did not attend any bible studies in 2015. I wished I had. (She always said that I was so faithful to come.) Even in the summer of 2014, Allen with our youngest grandson, drove me to The Hill House for Dianne’s bible study. Allen and our grandson hung out at the State House.

Toward the end of our 2014 Legislative Session my husband had a private meeting with Governor Bentley. Allen soon began to understand that the man he had reached out to as a fellow Christian and friend was not who he had believed him to be. And, within a few weeks, Allen’s private meeting with the governor was being absolutely misrepresented on a weekly political talk show. That did it for Allen, he stepped back from the governor he once trusted. Something was definitely different inside the governor’s office and my husband did not want anything to do with someone he knew he could not trust.

I know, that is no excuse for me to stop attending Dianne’s bible studies. But, I saw how Governor Robert Bentley had hurt my husband, and I did not want to be in a position to see him and have to pretend everything was alright. However, knowing what I know now, I should have been there. Maybe, just maybe, I could have picked up on something different about her and been there to help. Maybe, just maybe, her eyes didn’t glitter like they had in previous years. Maybe, just maybe, she needed a shoulder to lean on. So, I now regret my poor decision.

In Legislative sessions past, Dianne Bentley would host a luncheon for The Alabama Legislative Spouse’s Club. Our club president would go over activities we were involved in. Our club gave money one year to the tornado relief fund for the April 27, 2011 tornado that ripped Alabama apart. Another time we donated money to the mansion to update a room that could be used to store dishes. Dianne worked tirelessly on trying to update the old Alabama Governor’s mansion.

I could write for days. But I’m not. Writing this was therapy for me. My heart is very heavy. I can tell you one thing for sure. The State of Alabama has lost a “First Class” First Lady. I miss her. I am confidant that wherever Dianne goes she will be the classy lady that we all came to know and love. It has been hard for me to go with Allen to Montgomery this session and not think about my friend.

Dianne Bentley, I want you to know that we are in your corner. We are on your side.

The Alabama Legislative Spouse’s Club at the Governor's Mansion. (Photo: Muriel Farley)
The Alabama Legislative Spouse’s Club at the Governor’s Mansion. (Photo: Muriel Farley)

Muriel Farley is the wife of state representative Allen Farley (R-Bessemer) and a personal friend of Dianne Bentley’s. This article originally appeared on her personal blog.