Brumby’s relentless efforts to shine light on government decision-makers in Cobb County as well as in Atlanta are legendary, said former Gov. Roy Barnes, a close friend and attorney for the Brumby family for many years, as he introduced the award at Thursday night’s dinner.
The First Amendment Foundation also named Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein as the 2013 recipient of its Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award for her “unwavering support of public access to the courts and strong proponent of government transparency at all levels.”
When it came to the halls of government, Barnes said Brumby lived by the words of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who once said “sunshine was the best disinfectant.”
“He believed that openness of government was the best check on all who held political office,” Barnes said.
Barnes said all Georgians are in the debt of Brumby for his single-minded focus on open government.
“Politicians always seek to hide when they don’t have the best interest of the people at heart,” Barnes said. “We can thank Otis and his lifelong efforts to make sure the actions of the few who seek to exploit the people will always be disclosed to public view.”
Barnes described Brumby as an “old-school” newspaperman who didn’t just sit behind a desk but was in the community talking to folks and finding out what was really going on.
“Otis was loyal to his reporters, especially if he thought they were being bullied by those in power,” Barnes said.
“After he became ill, he wrote in the paper that his bones may have cancer, but he still had ink in his veins, and indeed he did,” Barnes said.
Barnes said Brumby’s commitment to transparency in government overrode even his commitment to close personal friends.
That’s a common thread heard from many of Brumby’s friends who held political office.
Former Congressman Buddy Darden was another who spent many years in public service and got close to Brumby.
“He and I were in law school together at University of Georgia, and when I came to Marietta as assistant district attorney in 1967, we got reacquainted,” Darden said. “We attended each other’s family weddings and were very close family friends for many years.
“The award I think was very well deserved because Otis was always a champion of open records and free speech, and that was one time when friendships never mattered with Otis.
“He always felt real strong about the need for open government, about government records being the public’s business and that the public should always know how their money was being spent. So it was a very appropriate award.”
The award was accepted by Brumby’s son and current Daily Journal publisher, Otis Brumby III.
Attorney General Sam Olens, and current Georgia justice Harris Hines were among the other dignitaries in attendance at Thursday’s dinner, held at the Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton law firm in Midtown Atlanta.