Paul A. Brown
|Paul Aaron Brown|
December 5, 1989 – December 31, 1990
|Preceded by||Robert T. Tobin|
|Succeeded by||Bill Robertson|
|Born|| January 15, 1932|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Died|| July 3, 1996 (aged 64)|
|Spouse(s)|| Not first wife:|
Shirley Florita Carter Brown (married 1971-1996, his death)
|Children|| From earlier marriage:|
David Brown (born 1966)
|Occupation||Businessman; Substance-abuse counselor|
Paul Aaron Brown (January 15, 1932 – July 3, 1996) was only the second Republican since the Reconstruction era to have served as mayor of Minden, the seat of government for Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana. Brown filled an unexpired term from 1989 to 1990 created by the recall of Democratic Mayor Noel Byars. Brown was defeated for a full term on November 6, 1990, by the Democrat Bill Robertson, who became the city's longest-serving mayor in history.
Brown was born in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. He joined the newly established U.S. Air Force when he was seventeen and was assigned to the Signal Corps in a job involving surveillance. He was stationed for a time in Panama City, Panama. He lived in numerous cities before he came to Minden early in 1987. On discharge from the Air Force, Brown worked for a detective agency in Houston, Texas. In the middle 1960s, he joined the staff of Motorola in Shreveport. He was thereafter transferred to other locations, including Biloxi, Mississippi, where he sold two-way radios. While on call for Motorola in Meridian, Mississippi, he met the former Shirley Florita Carter (November 13, 1944 - November 14, 2006), originally from Natchez, Mississippi. They were married in June 1971 and observed their 25th anniversary just days before Brown's death. Motorola brought the Browns to the capital city of Jackson, Mississippi, then New Orleans, and thereafter Tulsa, Oklahoma, where another former Minden mayor, Floyd D. Culbertson, Jr., resided after leaving Minden.
Brown left Motorola and went to work for a law enforcement supply company. In March 1978, he began treatment for alcoholism in the Baptist Hospital in New Orleans. In 1979, he became a counselor to alcoholics. After promotion through various positions, he became director of a counseling center in Greenville, Mississippi. He then worked in Annapolis, Maryland, prior to the move to Minden, where he became the outreach consultant at the newly opened Charter Forest Hospital alcohol treatment center.
Within three months of his arrival in Minden, Brown was hired as the full-time president of the Minden-Webster Parish Chamber of Commerce, his last position until he was elected mayor. As the chamber president, he launched a drive to increase membership of the organization.
Having been elected mayor in 1982 and 1986, Noel Byars was recalled early in 1989 after an inquiry conducted by the Citizens for Responsible Government in Minden revealed that he had charged numerous personal items to his municipal credit card. An African-American Democratic city councilman, Robert T. Tobin, a retired educator, was appointed by the council as acting mayor pending a special election for the year remaining in Byars' term. Byars, also an educator, thereafter left Minden and relocated to Beaumont, Texas.
Though a newcomer to the city, Brown entered the mayoral contest to finish out Byars' term. His chamber of commerce work endeared him to much of the city's business community. Similarly, another former chamber of commerce director, Tom Colten, like Brown a Republican, was elected mayor in 1966 and served until 1974.
In his 1989 statement of candidacy, Brown said:
I am a dreamer because I have visions of greatness for Minden. Some say I am naive because I listen to what others say and trust people and believe good things can happen. That may all be true. ... Let's dream together and plan and work to make Minden the great city it can be.
Tobin's candidacy raised the possibility that he would become the city's first ever elected black mayor. By the time of the 2000 census, Minden had become 52 percent black. Businessman Bill Robertson, a former member of the Minden City Council and the then president of the Webster Parish Police Jury, the parish's governing board, also ran for mayor, as did real estate agent Peggy J. Staples (1933–2009), who was a member of the city council from 1978 to 1990, the first woman ever elected to the governing body. In the first round of the special election, with a 60 percent turnout, Tobin led with 1,545 votes. Brown trailed slightly with 1,509 ballots. Robertson and Miss Staples followed with 1,028 and 452, respectively. Brown went on to defeat Tobin in the second round of balloting on November 18, 1989. The vote was 2,400 to 2,064.
Upon taking office, Brown said that city expenditures, particularly in sanitation and sewerage services, were outstripping revenues, a trend that had begun in the early 1980s. He urged cost-savings measures so as to maintain an adequate level of municipal services and continuing capital improvements.
Robertson topples Brown
On October 6, 1990, Robertson returned to challenge Brown in the nonpartisan blanket primary for a full four-year term. A third candidate also ran, Billy Sherman Cost (born 1948), a Democratic businessman who subsequently relocated to the Houston metropolitan region. Cost and another Minden businessman, Thomas Lee Hathorn (born 1951), had together led the successful recall against Byars in 1988 and 1989. The primary tallies were as follows: Brown, 2,630 (48 percent); Robertson, 1,728 (32 percent), and Cost, 1,064 (20 percent).
On September 28, eight days before the primary, Brown was seriously injured in an accident on the Minden High School sports field. He was carrying the football chain markers and was knocked into a bench. He lay in a coma for a week and spent thirty-seven days in intensive care at the Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport. A traumatic brain injury deprived him of his long-term memory, balance and motor functions on his left side, and his once articulate speech. He spent six months in physical rehabilitation.
When it became apparent that Brown could not physically resume his mayoral duties, Robertson won the second balloting, 2,529 (59 percent) to 1,758 (41 percent). Brown's support decreased by more than 800 votes since the primary, presumably from concerns about his health. Robertson hence won the first of his six terms as mayor, having benefited from the injury of his Republican opponent. He was elected again in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010 but died in office in his last uncompleted term.
Brown's last days and legacy
Brown remained disabled for the remainder of his life. On June 11, 1996, Brown was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer. A week later he was confined to the Integrated Health Services Nursing Home in Minden. His last days left him frail and malnourished. He lost weight and ran a high temperature.
After her husband's death, Mrs. Shirley Brown returned to Natchez, Mississippi, where she ran the Gayosa Avenue Market, which had been previously managed by her late mother. The Browns had a son, Daniel Brown and wife Dee of Natchez, and a daughter, Paula Rae Brown of Bossier City, Louisiana. Paul Brown also had a son, David Brown (born 1966), from a previous marriage. The Browns were Southern Baptist. The couple is interred at Gardens of Memory Cemetery in Minden.
The Reverend Willie Odom of Minden, described Brown as "a fine person. Whatever you needed help doing, he would help." Businessman George Elam McInnis (born 1945), the chairman of the chamber of commerce when Brown was hired as the manager, noted Brown's "enthusiasm and vigor. He gave us a great hope of growth for the chamber. At the end of a year, some of us encouraged him to run for mayor even though it would be an uphill run for someone who was not from Minden." McInnis noted that Brown would ride in police cars and on garbage trucks to get a better feel of the job of managing the city.
Dr. Richard Whiteman Campbell (born 1946), a Minden dentist who supported Brown for mayor, called him "a prince of a fellow with a lot of energy and enthusiasm for his community. . . . Even though he had lived in Minden only a short while, he had more love for his community than many natives. Even though his recovery was anything but complete, he really desired to get back into the mainstream of civic affairs in Minden."
Thelma Sue Sanders Gruber (born 1942), a former chamber of commerce director who also worked in Brown's campaign, described him as "open, honest, and friendly. To sum it up in a word, he was a cheerleader for any cause he believed in.”
- "Chamber President Paul Brown a "doer", Minden Press-Herald, February 23, 1988, p. 1B.
- Minden Press-Herald, September 8, 1987, p. 4.
- Minden Press-Herald, December 4, 1987, p. 1; "Brown hired by Minden Chamber of Commerce", Minden Press-Herald, December 6, 1987, p. 7.
- "Minden citizens organize movement to recall Byars", Minden Press-Herald, August 21, 1988, p. 1.
- "Robert Tobin appointed interim mayor", Minden Press-Herald, January 31, 1989, p. 1.
- Minden Press-Herald, June 12, 1966, p. 1.
- "Paul Brown candidate for Minden mayor", Minden Press-Herald, August 2, 1989, p. 4
- "Robertson elected to 7th term as President of Police Jury", Minden Press-Herald, January 5, 1990, p. 1.
- Minden Press-Herald, October 10, 1989, p. 1.
- "Tobin, Brown in November 18 run-off", Minden Press-Herald, October 8, 1989, p. 1.
- "Brown elected mayor," Minden Press-Herald, November 19, 1989, p. 1.
- Louisiana election returns, November 18, 1989. Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on September 12, 2013.
- "Mayor Paul Brown delivers first 'State of the City' message: Future bleak but solutions exist for the city", Minden Press-Herald, January 4, 1990, p. 1.
- Election Returns: Mayor of City of Minden. Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on January 23, 2015.
- "Brown conscious, doctors hopeful", Minden Press-Herald, October 5, 1990, p. 1.
- Election Returns: Mayor of Minden. Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on January 23, 2015.
- Curtis Heyen (June 27, 2013). Minden Mayor Bill Robertson dies. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on June 27, 2013.
- "Paul Brown, former mayor of Minden, dies of cancer at 64," The Shreveport Times, July 4, 1996.
- Brown obituary, Minden Press-Herald, July 4, 1996.