Top Claude Pepper Aide Jim Brennan Dies at 95; Pepper's Closest Confidant

Dec 21, 2011, 15:30 ET from Robert Weiner Associates

CORAL GABLES, Fla., Dec. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Revered former Florida Congressman Claude Pepper's executive assistant, James A Brennan, Jr., who advised the Congressman for decades, died yesterday afternoon at 95 from complications of heart surgery. Brennan was Pepper's closest confidant in the latter part of the congressman's career, including during his chairmanships in the 1970s and 1980s of the powerful House Aging Committee and House Rules Committee, while the congressman represented the South Florida/Miami-Miami Beach area. Brennan, from Coral Gables, is survived by his wife Yolanda (married 66 years), 10 children, and 28 grandchildren. After Pepper died in 1989, Brennan served as Board member and senior advisor to the Claude Pepper Foundation.

"Jim was devoted to Florida, and especially to finding ways to assist the state's many seniors," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. "He was a strong supporter of the late Sen. Claude Pepper's work in Congress on behalf of the elderly, and he continued that work through the Claude Pepper Foundation in Tallahassee." 

Alex Sink, former CFO of Florida and former Democratic candidate for governor, said, "I first met Jim Brennan 25 years ago when he was still serving as Representative Claude Pepper's always present 'right hand man.' I became reacquainted with Jim 10 years ago because he was always following Florida politics and most important, cared deeply about the well being and future of our state. Jim was never without an idea of a new policy or new approach to solve our most pressing challenges! I also considered him a loyal friend and supporter ... and a fantastic role model for his grandchildren." 

Robert Weiner, former Chief of Staff of the House Aging Committee under Pepper who was recruited by Brennan, added, "Jim was the Senator's (congressman Pepper's nickname as former U.S. Senator before he was congressman) closest confidant.  He had an innate sense of people and politics, and a fearless desire to improve the country that Pepper valued and respected.  Jim would come into meetings with a mission and with visions of what needed to be done, by whom, and how.  He knew how to separate do-ers from talkers, and the Senator sought and used Jim's clear-headed, mission-driven advice. Jim was unlimited in his vision of what the country should do to improve life for people, especially the elderly, and he also had a plan to get it done.  The amazing thing was, when the Senator instructed the staff to put Jim's vision into place with practical operations, most of it actually happened.  For example, we did meet with President Carter to get him to endorse the Senator's anti-mandatory retirement legislation, which became the law of the land, and we did bring in consumer witnesses under cover to expose nursing homes and cancer insurance companies for fraud and mismanaged care, and then enacted national standards; and we did enact legislation to expand Medicare to provide home health alternatives to nursing homes.  The Claude Pepper Library and its funding at F.S.U. in Tallahassee are now in place.  Jim's imagination, vision, and drive in those efforts made a big difference for the Senator and for the nation."

Brennan advised Pepper both in Florida and in DC; Jim resided in Coral Gables with his wife Yolanda ("Yoly'') but when the Senator was in Washington, he regularly stayed with the Senator and the Senator's wife, Mildred.

Viewing (wake) services will take place on Tuesday, December 27th from 7-9 p.m. at the Van Orsdel Funeral Chapel, 4600 SW 8th St, Coral Gables, Florida 33134, tel. 305-446-4412. Condolences may also be sent to the Van Orsdel Funeral Home.  

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, December 28, 2011, at the Church of the Little Flower, 2711 Indian Mound Trail Coral Gables, Florida 33134,  Coral Gables, 305-446-4412. Donations in James Brennan's name may be made to The Claude Pepper Foundation, 636 West Call Street, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1122.

James A. Brennan, Jr. was born July 18, 1916, in Youngstown, Ohio. In addition to his work first with Pepper and later the Pepper Foundation, Brennan was Chairman of the Board of Brennan Construction Corporation, a Florida corporation organized in 1940. As Chairman, Brennan did most of the general contracting work for Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida. Mr. Brennan attended the University of Havana in Cuba. In 1963 Mr. Brennan was employed by the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. He later became the Honorary Vice Consul of the Republic of Panama and Executive Assistant to the U.S. House of Representatives Rules Committee until its Chairman, Claude Pepper, passed away in May 1989. Mr. Brennan is a former Chairman of the Board of Directors of American Savings Loan Association of Florida, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Union Bank of Florida, and was also the Receiver for two Federal Judges. As a consultant to Brennan Realty, Inc. Mr. Brennan brought a wide range of experience dealing with the Federal, State and Local Governments. 

Jim and Yoly's children in order of birth, and grandchildren:

  1. James Brennan III - 4 children: Katherine Ann, Deese, Erin and James IV
  2. Manuel Felipe Brennan - deceased May 2009, 2 children: Louis and Robert 
  3. Yolanda Kahle - 2 children: Kevin and Lisa
  4. Margarita Wells - 2 children: Heather and Ryan
  5. Mary Anne Bougon - 2 children: John Paul and Anne Marie
  6. Nina Kennedy - 3 children: Natalie, Bobby, and Jimmy
  7. Barry Brennan - 3 children: Jason, Barry Jr. and Lynn Marie
  8. Anne Savoldy - 5 children: Joanne, Katie, Robert, Elizabeth and Michael
  9. Thomas Brennan - 2 children: Tommy and  Sam
  10. Jean Marie Alvarez - 3 children: Mari, Ceci and Miggy
  11. Joseph Brennan
  12. Baby Leo Brennan

Contact: Bob Weiner 301-283-0821/cell 202-306-1200
Heather Wells Greenaway 877-332-6556/ cell 571-215-6151

SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates