The man who served longer than any other legislator in Kentucky is gone. Jim died yesterday morning about 8:30 at his farm on Fort Campbell Blvd in South Christian County. Jim had wanted to get out of bed and sit in his chair and passed away while trying to do so. Jim's wife, Janie, had been by his side day and night for the last month.
Depending on who you talked to it was no secret that I was one of Jim's lieutenants for many years. Most of what I know about the art of politics and people, I learned from Jim Bruce. Jim believed in supporting his friends and letting his political adversaries wither on the vine.
The Gospel according to Bruce was very simple- "You run at home not in Frankfort."
Jim Bruce knew that it was more important to make people happy at home as opposed to making the Courier Journal or the Liberals happy in Frankfort. Not the right wing Conservative that most thought him to be, Jim Bruce just believed that he was elected to represent the beliefs and view points of the people of the 9th District. Helping the folks back home meant having the power to do so. If we were all going to be honest about it then we would have to admit that Jim Bruce was responsible for many of the things we have received in Christian County for over 40 years.
Jim was always quick to point out to me the lessons of politics and government. "Timmy, keep your mouth shut, your ears open and your powder dry," Bruce would say. "The ones doing all the talking in Frankfort, well they get nothing and get nothing done."
"You always dance with the ones that brung you cause even if you don't win, people will respect you for sticking with your friends. You won't accomplish anything in Frankfort unless people respect you and trust you, that does not mean they always have to like you."
Jim Bruce was loyal to his friends and family to the very end. He wanted nothing more than to see his seat returned to someone who he trusted to represent his district like he had done for all those years. Travis Calhoun was Jim Bruce's chosen successor and we can only hope at this point that we will be able to recapture the seat on Tuesday.
Bruce had forgotten more about politics than most of us will ever know in a lifetime. He was a political sage who knew how to move the chess pieces on the board without having to be or wanting to be in the lime light . Bruce always said " I don't mind not getting credit for the things I do, but I will be damned if I will let someone else take credit for it either." Jim believed strongly in the old Sam Rayburn philosophy that if you don't believe in yourself then how do expect anyone else to.
One can talk about the projects, the roads, the convention center that has his name on it but the things that most people will remember will be all the small things that he did to help those who had no place else to turn. I think Jody Richards or Greg Stumbo would be the first to admit that a House without Jim Bruce is not the same. I could write for hours sharing and telling stories about what a unique experience it was knowing Jim Bruce but for now I will close with his funeral arrangements.
Visitation: 4-8pm at Hughart & Beard Funeral Home on South Virginia Street in Hopkinsville.
Funeral: 10:00 am at the First Methodist Church on Main Street in Downtown Hopkinsville.