By J.J. McQueen
Special to the AFRO
When the COVID-19 outbreak was announced in 2020, no one knew that the world would change forever. For many there hasn’t been a silver lining, but for others the pause provided a window of time to revisit and explore the stories of yesterday’s giants, and today’s living legends. One of the unsung civil rights heroes of the modern era is Robert J. Brown.
At the height of the movement there were many African Americans working diligently behind the scenes to create a better life for those that were less fortunate. A life that some thought they’d never see as it relates to opportunities for economic advancement, home ownership and access to a quality education. Mr. Brown, or “Bob” to those that know him personally, was one of the individuals that answered the call of leadership during treacherous times. His leadership style and approach wasn’t polar opposite to leaders like Malcom X, his close friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the likes of Fannie Lou Hamer.
Mr. Brown’s approach has always been subtle, firm and confident. Born into the age of the Great Depression, he was no stranger to being creative. Those attributes were helpful in pouring water on the many fires during the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins in the winter of the early 1960s. His actions combined with his faith, helped negotiate employment opportunities for blacks who weren’t previously allowed to eat at the lunch counters at the infamous Woolworth chain. Brown’s resume also includes being the primary spokesman in persuading the South African government to release Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.
The native High Point, North Carolinian also went on to become White House aide to President Richard Nixon. The assignment wasn’t one that was popular among African Americans. However, he used his platform to help generate the first wave of fiscal momentum and government support to Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Following his days of working internationally, he went on to form BNC associates, a public relations firm that services clients globally.
Mr. Brown’s journey from being a child of the depression to his days in the White House are well documented in his book, “You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right How a Child of Poverty Rose to the White House and Helped Change the World.”
At age 86, after having spent decades navigating the murky waters of poverty, segregation and serving the needs of people across the globe, he now spends his free time playing golf and passing the torch of public relations wisdom onto the next generation of leaders.
One of his favorite sayings is, “Keep pushing ahead.”
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