J. Lynn Benson

State Champion Forensics & Drama Coach

J. Lynn Benson, BYH Champion Speech & Drama Coach
Lynn Benson, BYH Speech & Drama Coach

Brigham Young High School Faculty

At Brigham Young High School, forensics and speech programs were equal in emphasis to many of the school's athletic programs. BYH inherited this emphasis from its predecessor, Brigham Young Academy, which had fielded top debate and drama teams since the 1880s.

As state-wide speech competitions evolved, BYH was always a strong competitor. In 1954-1955 the school won its first State Championship in Forensics under Speech Coach George Lewis.

When J. Lynn Benson took his place as speech and drama teacher in 1960, he continued this strong tradition, and to the amazement of everyone, coached five student teams to state championships during his four years at BYH.

He taught by gentle, intelligent persuasion, never heavy-handed, with a gentle, intelligent sense of humor. His students wanted to win his approval, and his approval was never out of reach.

The Benson teams won State Forensics championships in 1961-62, 1962-1963 & 1963-64. As if that wasn't enough, his Drama teams also won State championships in the State Forensics Festival in 1962-63 & 1963-64.

Suitably warned, other schools in Utah increased their focus on forensics and drama, and while individual students at BYH won top awards at State in subsequent years, the overall championships were awarded to much larger high schools.

J. Lynn Benson, by A. LaMoyne Garside
Lynn Benson, drawn by A. LaMoyne Garside

J. Lynn Benson at BYH
Coached State Championship Teams
In Forensics, 1961-62, 1962-63, & 1964-65,
& State Championship Drama Teams in the
State Interpretive Festivals of 1962-63 & 1963-64

On September 4, 1924, J. Lynn Benson was born in Moreland, Idaho, to Alva Henry Benson and Emma Lorena England Benson. Lynn was raised and attended schools in Moreland, graduating from Moreland High School in 1942.

Benson continued his education at Ricks College [now BYU Idaho] through 1944, received a BS degree in Education at BYU in 1951, and his Master of Fine Arts at the University of Utah in 1960.

During World War II, he spent three years in the US Navy, stationed in the Pacific Theater.

Upon returning home, on June 20, 1946 he married Josie Fern Scoresby in the Idaho Falls LDS temple.

Lynn Benson taught at high schools first in Idaho at Iona, then at Idaho Falls, next at Snake River and finally at Brigham Young High School in Provo, Utah. He served as principal at Moreland Elementary for one year. Benson also served as a professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

He then taught drama at Ricks College for 25 years. He was Faculty Emeritus of BYU Idaho in Theatre and Dance.

Lynn Benson co-founded the summer-season Playmill Theatre in West Yellowstone, Montana, and operated it for 25 years. As an actor he played such roles as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, the King in The King and I, and Koko in The Mikado.

In the summer of 1966 the Playmill featured a singing group, The Coachmen, made up of seven BYH graduates and two Provo High graduates.

Through his years at the Playmill, Benson was ably assisted by his wife, Fern, who became the mother of the Playmill family each season. The Bensons had seven children, all of whom served many roles and participated in the stagecraft at the Playmill.

Lynn Benson was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served in many callings, including serving as a counselor in the Idaho Falls Temple presidency.

With his wife, Lynn Benson served missions to Nauvoo, Illinois; Independence, Missouri; and at the Rigby Idaho East Stake Family History Center.

Lynn Benson was a great friend, superb teacher, and a hero to many people for many different reasons.

J. Lynn Benson died of cancer at his home in Rigby, Idaho on Sunday, November 11, 2007. He was 83 years old.

He was survived by his wife, Fern, of Rigby; four daughters Cynthia (Byron) Lovell of Orangevale, California; Lynda (Don) Sparrow of Bullhead City, Arizona; Paula (Ferron) Sonderegger, of Rexburg, Idaho; Jolene (Kay) Jenkins of Chubbuck, Idaho; and three sons: Lloyd (Suzanne) Benson of Milo, Idaho; Bruce (Renee) Benson of Sugar City, Idaho; and Gary (Chimene) Benson of Rexburg, Idaho.

He was also survived by a brother, Rex (Lois) Benson of Ogden, Utah, 35 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and five sisters. His interment, Moreland Idaho Cemetery.
Special thanks to the Rexburg Standard Journal.

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