Chamber executive Harold Bryant dies unexpectedly

Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Governmental Affairs Harold Bryant died unexpectedly early Sunday morning.

Bryant was 67.

Bryant, also a general in the U.S. Army reserves, spent many years as a lobbyist, first with BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia then with the chamber in recent years.

"He was an operative who stayed below the radar," said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, the dean of the Columbus legislative delegation. "He did a lot of good and because he was so low-key. When something happened, many people may not have known he was the one who did it."

Bryant was known to tag people with nicknames and that was how he would greet them. He called Smyre "Mr. Chairman."

"That was his way of opening up to you," Smyre said. "Doing legislative work or lobbying, the key is relationships, and he knew how to forge that relationship before he ever came at you with the content."

Muscogee County Sheriff's Office Maj. Randy Robertson, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter, became friends when the two were working on a FOP issue about four years ago.

"He called me that 'Union Guy,' but when he found out I worked for the Sheriff's Office, it was 'Deputy Dog,'" Robertson said.

The two men saw each other Thursday in the Government Center when they were attending the news conference where Mayor Jim Wetherington announced his retirement.

Robertson said you could learn a lot about how government works by talking to Bryant.

"He could find an issue that on its face did not look like it would impact you, and in a minute or two he could show you exactly how that issue impacted your issue,"

Chamber of Commerce President Mike Gaymon said it was a great loss.

"He had a gift of knowing how to relate to people and how to communicate with people," Gaymon said. "He also had an incredible gift for timing of issues."

One of Bryant's qualities was his frankness, Gaymon said.

"You never had to guess where you stood with Harold," Gaymon said. "If we disagreed about something, he would come in my office and we would talk about it. At the end, he would stand up, salute and say, 'Yes sir, what do you want me to do.'"

Striffler Hamby Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. Details are incomplete.