By Robert Mann
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ―Shannon L. Alder
U.S. District Judge James Brady, who died on Saturday after a brief illness, was the rarest of persons in politics and the law. I knew him for more than 30 years and I cannot recall him speaking a harsh or uncharitable word about another person.
Imagine going through life without indulging in such talk. I can’t do it for a week or, sometimes, more than a day.
Now, imagine spending decades working in the law and politics — leading a state political party, no less — and conducting yourself like that.
Imagine devoting yourself to public affairs and being devoid of personal animus toward other people.
Think about how few people in your life you could describe as such. I know a few, but not many. I know even fewer in politics, in which the coin of the realm is, too often, personal insults, denigrating statements and the airing of petty grievances.
Jim Brady was a man apart. I almost asserted “he was among the best of a bygone era during which politics was not governed by such dark impulses.” Then, I remembered, there never was such an era in American or Louisiana politics.
It was not some golden era that has passed.
Rather, it is Jim Brady — a rare individual, exceedingly modest and compassionate and generous to a fault — who has passed.
Everyone who knew Jim has a story — or many stories — about his kind and thoughtful ways. Jim treated everyone with dignity and respect.
He was one of the most thoughtful and considerate people I knew. Hardly six weeks went by Jim didn’t call to compliment me about something — a column, a radio appearance, some minor distinction that few in my life, but Jim, took note of.
He not only noticed; he also called. And after each phone call from Jim, I thought: I wish I were more like that — thoughtful, caring and taking the time to make a call.
And here’s the thing: I know I was only one among dozens of friends who received phone calls like that.
Jim Brady gave his friendship — and did not request anything in return.
I know many generous people. I know many thoughtful people. I know many compassionate people. I know many people who are ethical to a fault and faithful to their families and friends. Jim Brady was that person in my life who represented the best balance of those fine qualities and more.
He was simply, as one of his good friends told me this morning, “the best.”
Rest in peace, friend.