One of the tallest trees in the Hall County forest fell with the death of James “Bimbo” Brewer Thursday, longtime friend Harris Blackwood said.
“This is a shock to all of us,” Blackwood said. “Bimbo Brewer is one of those larger-than-life characters that every community needs.”
A former WDUN radio personality and Hall County Sheriff’s Office victim advocate, Brewer was killed in a crash when authorities said he “suffered some type of medical condition” before the wreck Thursday afternoon in Gainesville. He was 73.
“In the loss of Bimbo Brewer, the entire Gainesville/Hall County community has lost a great soul. He was a man that put his heart into everything he did, and to say that he played a part in many, many lives would be a gross understatement,” Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a statement.
Brewer worked at The Times under editor Johnny Vardeman. Recalling Brewer’s love for hearing and telling a good story, Vardeman said Brewer worked as a district editor covering outlying counties while also laying out pages.
“He was a good friend and had a very jovial personality, but he was very serious when he got down to work,” he said.
Calling him a “brother from another mother,” Blackwood said he and Brewer were friends for almost 30 years and had their own radio program.
“We could look at each other and know what the other was thinking,” said Blackwood, who serves as Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety director. “And sometimes, we would just look at each other and we’d be on the air and laugh for no reason.”
Though the obituary may say 74, Blackwood said Brewer “crammed about 100 years of living” into his time. His sense of humor and outlook on life brightened the community around him, said the Rev. Bill Coates of First Baptist Church of Gainesville.
“He was a great community enthusiast,” Coates said, adding that Brewer was a deacon at the church. “He loved Gainesville, and he had one story after another about Gainesville and the people of Gainesville.”
In the mid-1990s, former Hall County District Attorney Lydia Sartain hired Brewer as an investigator. As recently as the Christmas Eve service at church, the Gainesville man “always had a smile on his face and a spring in his step,” Sartain said.
“People would just open and tell him anything and everything,” the former district attorney recalled of his work in her office.
In September 2001, Brewer joined the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, where he is known for his work as a victim/witness advocate.
“Dealing with the heartbreak and tragedy that befalls victims was part and parcel of his daily routine,” Couch said in his statement. “But no matter how traumatic the scene, Bimbo never failed to demonstrate the utmost compassion and sincerity. Whether it was notifying loved ones of someone’s passing, or gently guiding the victim of a violent crime through the maze of the legal system, he was always one to be counted on.”
Brewer joined Blackwood at the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in 2013 and retired last year. In the wake of Brewer’s death, Blackwood said he discovered the difficult nature of Brewer’s work with the sheriff’s office.
“He knocked on a lot of doors to tell people that someone they loved had passed away,” Blackwood said. “Oddly enough, it fell to me to kind of make some phone calls (Thursday) afternoon on his behalf. It made me realize what a difficult job, a challenging job in that victims’ services world.”
Gainesville Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said Brewer was driving eastbound on Browns Bridge Road near Spring Road, when Brewer is believed to have “suffered some type of medical condition.”
Holbrook said Brewer struck three other vehicles and a sign. He was transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Holbrook said one person from another vehicle was transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church on Green Street. Memorial Park North Riverside Chapel is handling funeral arrangements.