I woke up earlier this week, followed my normal routine of walking the dogs, picking up the morning papers, pouring my large glass of orange juice half filled with water to dilute the sugar, checked my emails, walked out on the patio to glance over the news … and then it dawned on me – I’ve turned 80.
Eighty? How did that happen? Not too long ago, I would have said that 80 is really old. And to many, I suppose it is. I don’t think I look 80. Oh, I do look in the mirror from time to time, and see reflections of my father. I remember him well in his 70s. He had suffered his first heart attack by then, and though he did not look real old, still, he had aged a good bit. I look away from the mirror, and he is a vision of a much younger man. But when I look back, there he is.
How do I feel? My doctor, whose first name is “Bubba” (you check out closely a doctor named “Bubba”) says I look a heck of a lot better on the outside than I do on the inside. I have my share of aches and pains. A knee and a hip that was replaced, some recurring arthritis, too much hay fever and a sore back. But hey, I had all that 20 years ago. So I guess I’m doin’ OK.
I still listen to the 50s music on the radio and remember well, dancing in high school to Jerry Lee Lewis — Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On. In the 60s, I was a Ferriday lawyer representing the likes of Jerry Lee and his cousin Jimmy Swaggart. Three daughters and country living dominated the 70s, and politics along with a new son took over my life in the 80s and 90s. The Feds were an irritant in the early new century, but I survived and have branched out in a number of new directions. seven grandchildren in the past decade are the icing on the cake.
I’ve tried to flush out an occasional creative vibe. Painting with a grandkids, who are much better than me. Refreshing my banjo skills. Would you believe that in my twenties, I helped pay my way through law school by strumin’ the banjo at Your Father’s Mustache on Bourbon Street in New Orleans? Even a stint as an actor in the Three Penny Opera and The Fantasticks at several local theatres in the French Quarter. It took a while, but I finally figured out that I shouldn’t worry about being all that skilled at many things. It was better to delight in the pursuit, and find clarity by enjoying the undertaking itself, regardless of my limited talent.
Yes, eighty is a milestone. But I won’t consider myself old — just a bit older. Ninety is probably old, but I have many years of lively living before I have to consider that next line in the sand. In the meantime, I will continue to be the happy go lucky, meddling, opinionated, bullheaded, talkaholic, health conscious, lovable (from my perspective) fellow that I have always been. I won’t hesitate to give plenty of advice to my children. They may be middle aged, but they are still my kids, and even though they think they don’t need my advice, I know they really do.
So why make a big deal of being 80? I mean, it’s just a number isn’t it? Like a bunch of other numbers in your life. Dates, addresses, sums, amounts, and then, in the mix, is age. But maybe it’s more than that. I can make a case that it could be an important milestone. My eighty years, by any measure, has been full and hard living, with ups and downs too numerous to mention. If there is a yin and a yang, the before and the after, what has happened, and what is yet to be, then maybe eighty is a special way post for me. Hey, I could be at the top and ready for the long and relaxing ride back down.
As for the rest of all you youngsters below the age of eighty, I have just this one thought. It’s nice to be on this side of troubled waters.
Few individuals anywhere have experienced the highs, and a few lows, found in the busy life of Jim Brown. From being a major sports figure in the 1960s, to covering the gamut of experiences right up to the present time through public life, as a columnist and on the radio, Jim has certainly not led any “hum drum” life. And besides all this, he carries on an active law price in the Louisiana started capitol of Baton Rouge.
Jim was legendary basketball Coach Dean Smith’s first recruit at the University of North Carolina in 1958, and he went on to become a member of the US Track Team in the early 60s. Remember Bullet Bob Hayes, the world’s fastest human? Jim handed off the baton to him on America’s 400 meter relay team.
Before his retirement from public office, Jim Brown was one of the longest serving public officials in Louisiana’s history. He was first elected to public office in l971 as one of Louisiana’s youngest State Senators. Many of the laws on the books today were authored by Jim. His efforts created the strongest public records and open meetings laws in the country. And he wrote landmark legislation that offered more public protection for financial privacy, and many of the state’s consumer protection law that still are in effect today.
In 1980, he was elected as Louisiana’s Secretary of State, and wrote major legislation to update the state’s election laws. He built what is considered to be the best state archives building in the country. And he streamlined the state’s corporation laws to make Louisiana more business friendly. The Shreveport Times called Jim the best Secretary of State in Louisiana history, and the Public Affairs Research Council labeled his office the most efficient in state government.
He was elected Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance in 1991, and immediately set out to rebuild this troubled department. Under his administration, the Louisiana Department of Insurance was granted accreditation by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which helped establish the Louisiana Department of Insurance as one of the top insurance regulatory agencies in the country.
For many years hosted a weekly public affairs television program, Town Meeting Louisiana Style, which was viewed on approximately 50 cable systems around the State of Louisiana. He has taught college courses in Louisiana history at both Louisiana State University and Tulane University.
Education has always played an important role in his life. Jim received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina, attended Cambridge University in England, and received his Juris Doctorate from Tulane University in New Orleans, where he served as president of his Law School student body senior class.
Today, Jim hosts a syndicated regular radio show that is heard in many states throughout the country. He also writes a weekly column posted on this site, and reprinted in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the south.
Jim lives and practices law in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is married to the former Gladys Solomon, and is the father of three daughters and one son.