The Curious Case Of B.R Newell's Business Card

B.R Newell left behind a business card any man would be proud to call their own. But was he really a ballad singing soldier of fortune?
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B.R Newell left behind a business card any man would be proud to call their own. But was he really a ballad singing soldier of fortune?

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Put your flags at half mast, wear a black armband and perhaps take a days leave on compassionate grounds, as the world may have lost one of the most interesting men to ever live. This week a post appeared on Reddit showing the business card of a Mr B.R. Newell which listed his specialist skills and interests. On first glance it looks like any other business card until you look a little closer.

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Burt Flaxton posted the photo of the card, found after his friend’s father passed away. Reddit users dismissed the find as just one of many popular ‘Mad Men’ style parodies popular in the 60’s and 70’s. However, a nifty bit of Googlefu reveals there may be some truth to Mr Newell’s elaborate claims.

A Mr Brooks R. Newell who was also a Senior Chief Torpedoman (as the letters TMCS(SS) denote on the card) died in August 2010. In the obituary his family say he was a “highly revered leader who was known for bringing humor to many a tough situation”. This humour is probably responsible for some of the more unusual claims he made. Brooks professed to be a specialist in revolutions, gunrunning, civil wars, smuggling, bootlegging and neatly tucked away in the bottom corner of the card, orgies. That’s quite an area to specialise in, especially aboard a submarine.

His other boasts include “singer of sentimental ballads”, “raconteur” and “last of the big spenders”. You can’t help but wonder just who he was handing these cards out to on his travels. Even the more ‘mundane’ achievements listed by his family suggest he lived a life of adventure during his 24 year career in the US Navy.

Serving aboard naval ships and submarines, he wrote the training manual for the MK-44 torpedo. He was a weapons range instructor, with sharp shooting skills and he even found time to cultivate this Tom Selleck-esque moustache.

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Despite Brooks’ bravado in print, a Veterans Day blog post from his daughter suggested he rarely mentioned his Naval adventures to his family. After he died it seems they found his career history packed away in boxes. The only story he shared with his family involved ‘Operation Deep Freeze’, a mission to Antarctica which nearly cost him his life.

We may never know just how true some of Mr Newell’s claims were, but the obituary does seem to suggest at least some were based on fact. Whatever the truth, it seems Brooks would have been an ideal bloke to meet down the pub for a pint, just so long as he didn’t start singing any of his sentimental ballads.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to update my business card.

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