Chester Co. loses frank friend of the law

RICHBURG -- Jim Bruce didn't always say pretty things.

But friends and family say the Richburg man with the deep radio voice spoke for what he believed, his language not tainted with meaningless words.

Bruce died early Wednesday after a battle with cancer, said Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker. He was 69.

"He did what he felt like was right," said Bruce's son, Jimmy.

Bruce was elected to the County Council in 2002 and served through 2006, losing his District 2 seat to Archie Lucas of Great Falls.

Although he served only one term, Bruce is perhaps best remembered for his frankness, not only about political issues, but about himself.

Bruce spoke openly of his past struggles with drugs and alcohol. He was a strong advocate for law enforcement, serving as a state constable and helping local police departments land grants.

"He brought funding into us, too, that we wouldn't probably have gotten anywhere else," said Chester County Sheriff Robby Benson. "As far as Lancaster, Chester and Fairfield (counties) goes, he was big into the law enforcement network and bringing all those agencies together to work a little bit better."

Bruce's negotiating helped the Chester County Sheriff's Office obtain a boat for its dive team, Benson said.

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Bruce served in the U.S. Air Force and lived in various places. He met his wife, Carol, in Colorado. After his kids were grown, he became a motorcycle enthusiast.

"He had an opportunity to relive some of his youth," Jimmy Bruce said. "So, he went out and got himself a Harley, actually had a couple of them. ... He rode for a long time."

Bruce was a successful businessman, becoming the vice president of a data communications company in Charlotte, Jimmy Bruce said.

Bruce moved to Richburg in the mid-1990s, buying a 68-acre farm that became the home of all three of his children.

The first time Earl Moore met Jim Bruce was in 1997 at an Exxon station on the S.C. 72 Bypass. A disc jockey with Chester's WGCD radio at the time, Moore had heard Bruce talking in the store and was impressed. He immediately could hear that voice identifying the radio station that had only been open about six months.

"My goodness, you have a deep, resonating voice," Moore told him. "It would sound so good on some station IDs."

Bruce laughed. As it turned out, he had done the same thing for some Charlotte radio stations. They went to the station the next day and made the recordings.

The two quickly became friends, often talking about issues that affected their communities. While eating lunch one day, they started talking about the need for a conversation about race relations. That led to the "B&W Show," a radio program that allowed the two men to openly discuss race.

The show lasted only about six months -- Moore said the community didn't want to talk about the subject -- but the conversation between two men gained much attention.

"Jim was a very honest person," Moore said. "He spoke what he lived."

Bruce was diagnosed with a fast-growing form of tongue cancer in the fall, Jimmy Bruce said. A man who was as comfortable talking to politicians as the guys at a gas station, Bruce was reluctant to have a surgery that would remove most of his tongue.

Despite the bleak outlook doctors gave him, he lived longer than expected.

"He taught me how to never quit," Jimmy Bruce said. "Even towards his final days, he still wasn't quitting."