Boy Scouts to honor civic leader
Nov. 27, 2012 at 5:27 a.m.
John Brimberry stood at the sliding glass doors at the rear of his garden home, pointing to a spot near the cart path of the Victoria Country Club golf course that abuts his home.
Four years ago on the day after Thanksgiving, he collapsed on that golf course, victim of a perforated tumor in his stomach.
"The other morning there were three deer right there," he said. "It's so serene here," he said.
Brimberry, who will be honored Thursday night by the Boy Scouts of America at its annual Distinguished Citizens Dinner, has earned the serenity and the honor.
"He is an incredible gift to Victoria," said LeOlive Rogge, who has known Brimberry for more than 40 years and served on several boards with him. "He constantly seeks ways to give back to his community. And he achieves that."
From 1998 to 2006 Brimberry chaired the committee that organizes the very event where he is being honored.
Although never a Scout, Brimberry said he respects the values the organization instills.
Brimberry recalled the late Zac Lentz getting him involved in the Scout event.
"Once I got in it, I really enjoyed it," he said. "One thing I have learned is how important the Eagle Scout designation is to these young people.
"As a businessman, if a young man came to me looking for employment and I looked at his resume and it has Eagle Scout, I'd move it right to the top," he said.
"I've learned what these kids have to go through to achieve that. You've got a well rounded young man who's ready to meet the world."
Education and more
Brimberry grew up on a 60-acre farm just outside of Grapeland.
His parents opened a grocery and feed store when he was in junior high and Brimberry logged many hours working there.
After graduating from high school in 1950, Brimberry attended Sam Houston State University getting his degree in agricultural education in less than three years.
He then spent two years in the Army where he was trained as a helicopter mechanic.
After the Army, Brimberry went back to Sam Houston State to pursue his masters degree in education and met his future wife, Alice, there.
The two married in August 1957 and have two daughters and three grandchildren.
Brimberry was faced with three employment choices after graduate school - high school ag teacher in Alvin, public relations with the Texas Forestry Service or a job with the Prudential Insurance Company in its investment division.
He chose insurance.
Brimberry went from Prudential to a partnership in his own insurance and real estate business in Hearne about five years later.
Two years after that, Brimberry finally landed in Victoria.
A mutual friend introduced him to Victoria insurance agent Ervin Vrazel who was looking for a partner in his agency.
"I liked him immediately. He seemed to like me. On a handshake on July 1, 1964, we moved down here with the understanding that if by Jan. 1 we could get along and progress, we'd enter into a partnership," Brimberry recalled.
"It worked out pretty well."
What worked out was the formation of a "cluster" of local insurance agents in 1971.
"Professional Insurance Agents was the first of its kind in Texas," Brimberry said. "A lot of people have modeled their businesses after what we did."
And what PIA did next catapulted Brimberry to yet another professional level.
In 1985, the company changed to a true corporate operation that dispensed shares of stock. Then in 1999, PIA was sold to Frost Bank in San Antonio.
"I had been watching the industry, as Frost had been, the gradual merger of financial industries," Brimberry said.
"It took some federal legislation to allow national banks to enter the insurance business. Frost decided to get in early. It was a good move."
Brimberry headed up acquisitions where Frost already had a major banking presence. During the next five years, the bank acquired insurance agencies in Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth and Houston.
"That formed the platform for Frost to get into the insurance business. It's been an amazing success," Brimberry
Also successful was Brimberry's incorporating himself into the Victoria community.
He is a founding director and past chairman of the Victoria College Foundation. He was a founding officer and director of the Victoria Economic Development Corporation.
Brimberry has also served as past president of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, past chairman of the Victoria Cultural Council and as a board member of the Victoria County United Way.
He is also a past chairman of the board of trustees of the First United Methodist Church and served on the board of trustees of the Southwest Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church for 12 years.
"When you make yourself visible in a business like I am in and people perceive you have some success, that's who they go to for success. You network and good things happen both ways," he said.
"And I truly believe in giving back. I enjoy it and I've met some wonderful people."
Among those people is Kathy Hunt, who - like Rogge - has served on several boards with Brimberry.
"He is a true civic leader," Hunt said. "He leads with compassion and he is also very analytical. He helps the group think through situations.
"He is a very deserving recipient. He is a caring community member."
David McLarry, who now chairs the dinner committee, agreed.
"He is an excellent choice. He has been influential in civic, cultural and economic development in this area. And he is a gentleman in every respect," McLarry said.
Brimberry balked when asked to accept the award.
"At first, I said no," he said. "I met with the committee one day and said I would do it under one condition.
"I told them to understand this is a Boy Scout fundraiser and that has to come first and foremost. You have to commit to that."
Committee members agreed and Brimberry modestly agreed to the honor.
"I was humbled, deeply humbled. I never expected that," he said. "But, of course, my ego went sky high. I felt good about it; I felt challenged by it.
"It's not my thing to be out in the public. I am a behind- the-scenes guy. It made me feel good. Why wouldn't it? To have your peers say ol' John did something good."