I got to see him at his greatest, in the 1990s, when he was a man in full. He had Newt Gingrich as speaker, he was dealing with every superpower from developers to county commissioners, he had Johnny Isakson who was clearly rising to great prominence and a friend in Roy Barnes who was on the road to apex of government power.
I saw him negotiate through crisis after crisis. When the Cobb Commission approved its anti-gay resolution, which was extremely damaging to the county, he was able to eventually shut it down through the power of the press.
And the Cobb Galleria Center convention hall would not have happened the way it did and would not have been called what it was without Otis. He was upset that “Cobb” was not going to be in the name. Had it been “The Galleria Center” or “The Cobb Center” it would not have meant anything to anybody, but I was there at a conference call at which he brokered a deal for the name it has now.
And that kind of thing happened over and over again. When someone at the Chamber got in trouble, it was Otis that they called. The “Around Town” column might have caused trouble, but it also soothed a lot of trouble and made a lot of things go away.
“If you were his enemy, you were his enemy. You didn’t just take a bite of Otis Brumby. But many of his enemies became his friends. And you couldn’t have a better friend. He could be tough on people. But if he was your friend you could count on him being loyal and supportive.
I would not be a nationally syndicated columnist if he had not been willing to give me a shot and run my first column. He was a testing ground for journalists all over America.
And don’t sell short his brilliance in creating the Neighbor Newspapers. What would Buckhead socialites do if they didn’t have the Buckhead Neighbor to see their pictures in? And ironically, it was created by somebody who didn’t consider himself a socialite and who the Buckhead socialites back then might have looked down their nose at. But someone from Marietta turned out to be the one who, thanks to the Neighbor, created a unified Buckhead. …
He had a tremendous sense of humor and these great one-sentence descriptions of people, like “Old So-and-So fell into a whiskey bottle,” or “I think there’s something up with his wife” or “Didn’t he have sticky fingers at the bank?”
I had a Christmas party at my house one time, with a big fire in the fireplace, and we had forgotten to open the flue. Otis and Buddy Darden were the first two to arrive as the house suddenly filled up with smoke, and Buddy said, “Matt, I think your house is on fire!” and it was so funny, Otis just said, “Matt, this wood smoke really gives your house more of a ‘Christmas’ feel.”
I knew this day was coming. I just don’t know what life will be like in this county or this state without him. He was one of most fabulous humans I’ve ever known. I loved him as part of my family.
I’m not anything big in this world, but I wouldn’t be anything without Otis Brumby. A lot of people think they made it on their own, but they didn’t. They didn’t.
I have lost a priceless friend and we have lost a giant beyond compare.