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My times with Jim Brumm

First time I met Jim Brumm, I was a nervous 24-year-old hack for a trade publication, covering an Asarco annual meeting in 1993. He was a blustery 55-year-old reporter from Reuters, who wouldn’t even let the CEO answer a question before interrupting him and catching him in a contradiction. I asked the company flack, “Who is that blustery guy?”


“That’s Jim Brumm from Reuters.”


“Can he talk that way to a CEO?”


“He can if he’s right.”


First time I talked to Jim Brumm, it was six months later at a cocktail party. I was probably drunk and trying to prove I knew as much about the copper market as he did. He changed the subject immediately and started talking about his time in the Navy and how much he loved his kids. Dude went on for 45 MINUTES!


“Who is this old guy,” I thought to myself. At the time, he was 55, three years older than I am now.


First time I worked with Jim Brumm, I was an obnoxious 28-year-old reporter starting his first day at Reuters. He was 18 years into his Reuters career (“20 years if you count my stint as a filer in 1972. Of course before that I was with American Metal Market. And I was with Dow Jones. And before that was my time in Navy…”). He greeted me kind of like - a coach. The bluster was still there, but he said, “I’m glad you’re here.” He made me feel like I belonged there. Like I was worthy. And then he talked about his wife and kids for 45 minutes.


Jim Brumm had lots of colorful aphorisms. But I think my favorite was when I came into work, bellyaching about some misdeed someone in Reuters enacted upon me.


He said, “Sit down. Sign on. And shut up.” Stopped me dead in my tracks.


And with God as my witness, I cannot sign on to my Reuters account without hearing his voice. “Sit down. Sign on. And shut up.”


First time Jim Brumm bailed me out of trouble was when the aforementioned Asarco was getting bought out. I helped break the story, but I couldn’t hang around to cover it through to the end.


“I got it, Derek.” He didn’t even hesitate. He sat down. He signed on. He shut up. Didn’t even ask me why I couldn’t stay late.


Jim, I was ashamed to say at the time. But you deserve to know: I had Bruce Springsteen tickets and I didn’t want to miss the show. Thing is, even if I told you, you would have covered for me anyway. Not because you liked me, although I’d like to think you did. But you respected the job too much not to.


So to his wife and kids: I’m sorry I kept your husband late on July 15, 1999. The show was amazing. If this were a fantasy, I would have ended it with a story about how I treated him to a Bruce Springsteen concert years later. But Jim always wanted the truth, not a fantasy.


Last time I saw Jim Brumm was at his retirement party. “Three years salary! That’s how much they’re paying me to leave.” The bluster was still there, but he was giddy. Then he talked for 45 minutes about the time he was going to spend with his wife, his kids and his grandkids. I was only too happy to listen.


See you down road, Jim. And when you see God, tell her to sit down, sign on and shut up. ■