|Four individuals were inducted May 27 into the 2016 Class of Crittenden County County Distinguished Alumni. A luncheon was held at Rocket Arena to honor the three men and one woman.|
The exemplary life’s work of each of this year’s four Crittenden County Distinguished Alumni inducted last month involves careers in justice, technology research, broadcasting and business. This year’s inductees Judge Jerry Brown and Dr. Andrew Mason exemplify the very best of ambition, drive and hard work. Posthumous inductees Bob Swisher and Juanita Burks each shared a lifetime of contributions already recorded in history. All were recognized at a private luncheon May 27 and again at commencement ceremonies at Rocket Arena.
Career in law elevates Brown to federal bench
By CHRIS EVANS, THE CRITTENDEN PRESSThe Honorable Jerry Brown’s judgeship in New Orleans has brought him into contact with some of the most powerful people in the South, but the 84-year-old has never forgotten his modest roots in Crittenden County.
Brown, a justice for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, counts himself among the luckiest men in the country. The 1950 graduate of Marion High School has literally seen the globe thanks to his military career, personal travels and professional work as a lawyer and judge for almost 60 years.
Judge Brown will be recognized Friday as a 2016 Distinguished Alumnus by Crittenden County Schools.
“Looking back, I guess I’ve just been the luckiest guy in the world. I was always at the right place at the right time. The good Lord has been good to me,” said Brown.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, Brown went to college on the G.I. Bill after serving overseas in Europe as an enlisted soldier. Beyond the military, Brown earned a law degree from Tulane and stayed in the Deep South, working as a clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge John Minor Wisdom, who was instrumental in civil rights decisions during desegregation.
He’s a leader among the most esteemed attorneys in Louisiana, having served as president of the state bar association, federal bar association and Tulane Inn of the Courts, a professional support group for young lawyers.
For more than 30 years, Brown was a partner at Monroe and Lemann, a prominent New Orleans firm. He spent a short time as a special partner at Bronfin Heller, a bankruptcy law firm, before ascending to the federal bench in 1992. In 2005, he was named chief bankruptcy judge in the district, and following his retirement in 2011, Brown was recalled to service. To this day, he continues to serve as bankruptcy judge with a full docket.
Brown speaks highly of his early education in Marion where he received the motivation, inspiration and foundation for his highly regarded career in law. He was raised in Farmersville, lived five years in Detroit with his family during World War II then moved back to western Kentucky where the family settled in Crayne. He attended Marion High School from his sophomore year until graduation. At commencement ceremonies in 1950, Brown delivered the valedictory speech although he was not the school’s top graduate.
“Billy Campbell was the valedictorian,” he said, “but he didn’t like speaking, and I did, so I wrote and gave the speech.”
Public speaking was one of his strengths, and it has served Brown well in the legal profession. Reading and writing, he said, are perhaps more important for aspiring attorneys of today. Most cases are now settled through briefs instead of oratory as in earlier days, Brown explained.
“Marion had terrific high school teachers. Dr. Brandon was an excellent math teacher I had. He went back to school and became a medical doctor and served the community for many years,” Brown said. “Two teachers I remember the most were Mable Minner and Ms. (Nannie) Miller. They both taught English and were excellent teachers. When I came out of high school and went to Murray State, about a third of the students at Murray had to take what’s now called remedial English, but I don’t remember anyone from Marion having to take it.”
Brown played basketball at Marion High. At Murray, he graduated with honors in 1954. His military service took him to Germany, then he chose Tulane in New Orleans over Washington University in St. Louis for his education in law. He says a love for Dixieland Jazz drew him to the The Big Easy.
“As a kid, I listened to Clear Channel Radio and loved the music that came out of he Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel. I’d never been to New Orleans and didn’t know a soul, but I loved the music,” said the judge, who admits he can’t sing or play a single instrument.
His grandfather was an old-fashioned “horse trader.” Brown remembers growing up without electricity or running water, but he counts the blessings of his life and its accomplishments.
“I am awfully grateful,” he said. “I grew up dirt poor, but we didn’t know the difference because everyone else was, too.”
Brown and his wife, Florence, have been married 56 years. They raised three children who became an investment banker, lawyer and doctor. He and his wife have traveled extensively, covering most of Europe, Central and South America, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Greece, Turkey, Japan and China. This fall, he is planning a trip to a previously unvisited part of Italy.