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.