Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jimmy Bedford, 1940-2009

He was a quiet man, a reluctant celebrity, who nevertheless became the face of the world's best-selling American whiskey during a worldwide American whiskey renaissance.

Jimmy Bedford, former master distiller at Jack Daniel's, died yesterday of an apparent heart attack at the age of 69. He was found outside a barn at his farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

Bedford went to work at the Jack Daniel's Distillery in 1968, where he held a number of different jobs before becoming master distiller in 1988. At that time, the job of master distiller at an American whiskey distillery was changing, from that of a full-time manager to part manager, part ambassador. A native of Lynchburg, Bedford had traveled little before taking on the ambassador role, which took him all over the world.

Only seven men have held the position of master distiller at the 143-year-old distillery, beginning with founder Jack Daniel.

Though stiff and formal addressing large groups, Bedford could be warm and open in small gatherings, such as when entertaining journalists at his home. He and his wife had one child, a daughter, pictures of whom decorate every room of their house.

The only public stain on Bedford's long career was the way it ended last year. He was asked to retire after being named in a $3.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a Texas woman. The suit was settled out of court.

His official obituary was prepared and released by his former employer, Brown-Forman, which owns Jack Daniel's.

4 comments:

Lee said...

"The only public stain on Bedford's long career was the way it ended last year. He was asked to retire after being named in a $3.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a Texas woman. The suit was settled out of court."


That's a Great Lakes-sized stain. Care to elaborate on it?

Chuck Cowdery said...

It's not necessarily a "Great Lakes-sized stain," depending on the details, which I don't know. The short statement you quoted is essentially what was said at the time, by Brown-Forman, and I haven't heard anything else. If it wasn't moot then, it certainly is now.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Lee wanted to post a clip about the story from the NY Times last year. I rejected it for copyright reasons, but feel free to look it up yourself on the NYT web site. It adds some details, of which I was aware, such as the woman's name, Claudia Falkenberg, a Jack Daniel’s brand manager. It also mentioned that the conclusion of Brown-Forman's internal investigation was that the sexual harassment allegations were "credible." That's the gist of it.

Carla Sofia said...

I met Jimmy in 2006... it was awesome! He gave us a whiskey tasting, I loved all the explanations... his knowledge and dedication was superb... I admired him a lot, and it seems amazing that he suddenly died in the middle of all these allegations by this woman... I met him once or twice a year since I met him, as a Tennesee Squire, I was exposed to many Jack Daniels events...
Jimmy was so exquisite, it is hard to believe he did something at this lever... R.I.P. I miss you Jimmy!