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UTU mourns loss of long-time legislative director, lobbyist extraordinaire Brunkenhoefer


Long-time United Transportation Union (UTU) National Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer died Dec. 19 after suffering a stroke two days earlier. He was 61.

Affectionately known to many in the rail industry and on Capitol Hill as "Brokenrail," Brunkenhoefer was in the midst of his fifth term as the UTU’s chief lobbyist.

"Our union lost a congressional lobbyist considered by his peers, by the lawmakers he lobbied and by their senior staff as one of the most effective in Washington at his trade,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey in a prepared statement. "Brokenrail prided himself on making friends for us on both sides of the congressional aisle.”

Brunkenhoefer began his railroad career in 1966 as a trainman for the Southern Pacific Transportation Co. He later became an engineer.

In 1969, Brunkenhoefer was elected vice local chairperson of UTU’s Local 83 in Houston. Over time, he served as the local’s president, vice president, chairperson, legislative representative, delegate and special organizer. In 1980, Brunkenhoefer became alternate Texas state legislative director, and two years later assumed the full directorship of the Texas State Legislative Board.

In 1987, he was elected UTU national legislative director, and won reelection in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007.

"Brokenrail made for this union a lot of good friends in high places, which helped us to achieve many legislative and regulatory agency goals we might otherwise have failed to achieve,” said Futhey. “He will be sorely missed."

Brunkenhoefer is survived by his wife, Judy Sinkin. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to So Others May Eat, 71 O Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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