The Marietta resident, one of suburban Atlanta’s best-known native sons, made a name for himself as a prominent businessman and journalist who grew a small local paper into a thriving conglomerate during a time when Atlanta’s suburbs were beginning to expand.
He was a force in local politics as well, using his newspaper to promote his vision of progress in Marietta, Cobb County and the state.
Behind the scenes, Brumby influenced decades of important decisions in Cobb that drove residential and commercial development, and turned the county into a magnet for establishments of higher learning, such as Kennesaw State University.
Brumby got his start in the newspaper business at the Marietta Daily Journal, working for his father and namesake as an assistant to the publisher in 1965. Two years later he took over the top job.
Brumby went on to start the Neighbor Group of weekly community newspapers in 1969, growing the company into a collection of 24 newspapers, two magazines, six Web sites and a weekly circulation of 375,000.
A diagnosis in 2010 of stage IV prostate cancer slowed Brumby but did not stop him. He was known to come to work almost every day, overseeing the pages and producing strongly worded columns about the goings-on of the county’s government and civic groups.
Brumby’s sway was evident throughout his career, extending to the recent regional transportation tax referendum that his Journal railed against and helped defeat.
“At his core, Otis was a journalist whose first commitment was to open government and protection of the First Amendment, and he did that,” said Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harris Hines, a longtime friend.
“Otis was a giant in our community, he was a giant in our state and we will miss him deeply. He was the epitome of public service,” former Gov. Roy Barnes told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Barnes recalled that, as governor, he had appointed Brumby to the state Board of Education, where Brumby served as chairman.
Barnes said Cobb County, unlike several other metro Atlanta counties, “has escaped the corruption of its public officials.”
“And I give full credit for that to Otis and his Marietta Daily Journal,” Barnes said. “He demanded transparency. He was a guardian of open government, and he was what all newspapermen and he was what all newspapermen and women should aspire to be.”