Harts M. Brown
World War II veteran and retired management consultant led the way in preservation of Howard County's African-American past
Harts M. Brown (Baltimore Sun / July 1, 2011)
The Woodstock resident, who had lived in Northwest Baltimore and Columbia, was 89.
Harts Morrison Brown, the son of a Baltimore & Ohio railroader and a concert pianist, was born and raised in Cincinnati.
After graduating in 1940 from Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, he moved to Philadelphia to be near his mother.
"It was there that he learned the Army Air Corps was accepting 'Negroes' for training as pilots and mechanics in Tuskegee, Ala.," said a daughter, Dr. Nancy Vanessa Brown-Holt, a physician who lives in Woodstock.
He enlisted in 1941 and was one of the original 75 African-Americans who had been selected for training as pilots and mechanics at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
"His dream was to become a pilot. He lost an eye after being hit with a baseball, which left him sight-impaired. You needed to have perfect sight to become a pilot," Dr. Brown-Holt said. "He also talked about the tough discrimination he faced in Alabama."
Mr. Brown, who was trained to be part of a ground crew, was with the 96th Maintenance Group, which later became the 96th Service Group. Assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, Mr. Brown and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen were sent to Italy in 1944.
He was discharged in 1945 and his decorations included two Bronze Stars, his daughter said.
Mr. Brown enrolled at Temple University, earning a bachelor's degree in 1950. He later earned a master's degree in 1965 from George Washington University.
Mr. Brown joined the Social Security Administration in 1955 and came to Baltimore in 1961, where he later was chief of the self-development and guidance career section of the Office of Employee Development at the administration's Woodlawn headquarters.
In 1966, he was given a Superior Performance Award for instituting a career planning system that involved testing employees for aptitude, career and vocational guidance, diagnostic and employee utilization services.
"He enjoyed a challenging career in the Social Security Administration, where he was a trailblazer in helping integrate the system and received a Commissioner's Citation, SSA's highest honor, in 1966," his daughter said.
During the 1970s, he was an executive administrator at Commercial Credit Corp. and Control Data.
In addition to his regular work, Mr. Brown taught human resources at Loyola College and Federal City College in Washington and headed Brown and Associates Inc., management consultants.
He was chairman of human resources and development at Antioch College in Columbia, where he also developed courses in organizational development until he retired in the late 1980s.
"Eventually, he was forced to retire early and give up his love of driving when he was legally declared blind in 1985," his daughter said. "He persevered and simply gave more of himself to his community while learning to live fully as a visually impaired man."
A civil rights activist, Mr. Brown attended the 1963 March on Washington where the Rev. Martin Luther King gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, and the Million Man March in 1995.
Mr. Brown was an active member and later president of the Central Maryland Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.
Mr. Brown had been part of the effort that created Matthew Henson State Park in Aspen Hill that recalled Henson's role in the 1909 expedition to the North Pole with Adm. Robert E. Peary.
"I believe he would have liked this. It would bring a smile to his face. … He was from the land," Mr. Brown told The Washington Post at the time of the park's dedication in 1989.
A year later, he worked for the preservation of the old Ellicott City Colored School, built in 1880, the first school built with public money in Howard County to educate African-American children.
The Central Maryland Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society undertook the preservation of the former school to be used as its headquarters and a museum of the county's African-American past.
Mr. Brown also enjoyed giving Howard County elementary school students lessons in astronomy and computer technology, and also helped establish the annual Kwanzaa program at McDonogh School.
He also volunteered with the Black Student Achievement Program and was a founding member of the Council of Elders of the Black Community of Howard County.
"As the first president elder," his daughter said, "he worked tirelessly not only to preserve and celebrate the traditions of the county's black ancestors but also at the same time enrich the academic lives of students."
As a result of his volunteer hours in Howard County, Mr. Brown received the Maryland You Are Beautiful Award in 1992.
Mr. Brown enjoyed attending the theater and listening to music. He also liked going to baseball games, fishing, playing cards and researching his genealogy.
A memorial service was held July 2. A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 16457 Old Frederick Road, Mount Airy.
Also surviving are four sons, Harts Barclay Brown of Philadelphia, Ricardo E. Brown of California, Kojo Brown of Arbutus and Jason Daniel Marks of Cincinnati; three other daughters, Deborah Lillian Brown of Philadelphia, Ellyne Brown Downs of Baltimore and Ama Brown-Fenton of Columbia; 13 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild. Marriages to Ada Bryant, Dr. Ruth Payne and Carrie Anderson ended in divorce.