Ex-Jack Daniel's distiller dead at 69

Jimmy Bedford, 69, who stepped down as master distiller of Jack Daniel's under a cloud last year, has died.

Bedford, who had a 40-year career with the company and was regarded as one of the elite distillers in the industry, was found outside a barn at his farm in Lynchburg, TN, dead apparently of a heart attack, according to company officials.

Bedford spent 20 years as the master distiller supervising the entire operation at the 143-year-old distillery in Lynchburg, the oldest registered one in the United States.

"He was a friend and colleague to so many of us," said Phil Lynch, vice president and director of corporate communications for Brown-Forman, Jack Daniel's parent company. "He was a major figure in the whiskey industry and will be missed."

When Bedford retired, he was succeeded by understudy Jeff Arnett. It later was revealed that the company asked Bedford to “retire” after a female employee filed a $3.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit against him. It was settled out of court.

At the time, Lynch was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "We investigated it thoroughly and took strong action. He soon left the company."

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