Remembering the Life and Legacy of John E. Brown Jr.
John E. Brown Jr. gave a lifetime of service to JBU and country, including his term as president from 1948 to 1979
(Services for Chancellor Brown will be held on Friday, June 10 at 2:00 p.m. in the Cathedral of the Ozarks on the campus of John Brown University with Dr. David Bush officiating.)
John E. Brown Jr., the second president of JBU, passed away June 3. He was 89. As an alumni, president and chancellor of the university, he leaves a legacy as being one of the greatest champions for JBU. His efforts benefited former students, benefits students today, and will benefit future students as well.
Born August 1, 1921, John graduated from JBU in 1942. He trained as a naval pilot and later served aboard a ship with the Pacific Fleet during World War II. He was on the USS Ancon and the USS Eldorado. He received the American Area Asiatic-Pacific Area star, the Philippine Liberation award, and the World War II Victory medal. He was also at NACSB Atlanta, NAS Beaufort, SC and CASCU Coronado, California. He returned to JBU after the war and was appointed JBU’s vice president by John Brown Sr. in 1946.
John succeeded his father as president of JBU in 1948, when he was just 26, making him, like his father has once been, the youngest university president in America. He received an honorary doctorate from Biola University in 1952. In 1954, Texas Wesleyan College also awarded him an honorary doctorate. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from JBU in 1993.
During his tenure as president, John pushed high academic standards, leading to JBU’s accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (now the Higher Learning Commission) in 1962. John also was responsible for the introduction of intercollegiate athletics at JBU and was a lifetime fan of JBU Golden Eagle basketball, rarely missing home games. Under John, enrollment increased steadily, and the Honors Program was founded in 1961.
While he was president, John oversaw the completion of the iconic Cathedral Group of buildings in 1957. Beyond the Cathedral, many of the structures that stand on campus today were erected under John’s leadership: Mayfield and new wing on J.Alvin (1964), Murray Sells Physical Education Building (1965), Broadhurst Village (c. 1965), Chapman/Mabee Center (1972).
A key part of John’s legacy was his instrumental efforts in creating a sustained university endowment, raising millions of dollars for the university, much of which funds endowed scholarships to this day.
John was given the honorary title of Chancellor in 1987, how most students knew him for the past few decades. John was honored with JBU's Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1999. He was active in Rotary and was named Pioneer Citizen of the Year in 1991 by the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce.
He married Louise Randolph on May 21, 2006. He was married to Caroline (Trahin) Brown from Nov. 23, 1941 until she died on Jan. 28, 2005. He is survived by Louise of the home, five children, Karen Wilt, John Brown III and wife Stephania, Melinda Pollock, Julie Lolley and husband Mikel, Laurie Wilkinson and husband Burt, 14 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren.
Up until the final weeks of his life, John could be often found in conversations with students, faculty and staff, about JBU’s history, the latest fundraising efforts and Golden Eagle basketball.
John once humbly said, “I always say my dad started the college, I came along and sort of held it together, and John, III took it to new heights.” His foundational legacy, however, will continue to positively impact the university for generations to come.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be made to the John E. Brown Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund. Gifts can be sent to JBU at 2000 W. University, Siloam Springs, Ark. 72761 or made online here.