John H. Brown

John H. Brown, who headed the Baltimore Police Department's mounted patrol for more than a decade and later became Carroll County sheriff, died Jan. 11 of heart failure at his Uniontown home. He was 85.

"He was fair, a gentleman, as were his deputies," said Perry Jones, a former Carroll County commissioner who is now mayor of Union Bridge. "It was a new start for the department when he came to Carroll County, and he was a man who had his own ideas when it came to law enforcement."

The son of Joseph Howard Brown, a city police officer, and Mary Viola Brown, a candy maker, John Howard Brown was born in Baltimore and raised on Monroe Street.

He was a graduate of St. Martin's parochial school. In 1947, he enlisted in the Army, where he served as a private with the military police in Korea until 1949. After being discharged in 1952, he joined the Baltimore Police Department.

Mr. Brown served as a patrol officer until 1966, when he was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the mounted police division. He was the division's ranking sergeant when he retired in 1977.

During his 25 years with the department, Mr. Brown was awarded eight commendations for valor and outstanding police work, and two Bronze Stars for police action involving the use of firearms.

Five years before he retired, Mr. Brown sold his home in Federal Hill and moved to a house on West Main Street in Westminster. After restoring the old house, he purchased a 10-acre farm.

In the late 1980s, he purchased an antebellum toll house in Uniontown, which he restored, and he lived there the rest of his life.

In 1978, Mr. Brown fulfilled a dream when he opened John Brown's Deli, a kosher-style delicatessen, on Main Street. He sold it in 1981, when he established Carroll Security, a private security agency.

Mr. Brown joined the Carroll County public defender's office in 1985, where he was an investigator until 1990, when he decided to run for county sheriff. He was sworn into office in 1990.

"I enjoyed those other jobs, but I really missed being a police officer," he told The Baltimore Sun in a 1998 interview.

Mr. Brown drew headlines for his flamboyance and the fact that he carried a pearl-handled pistol in his waistband. He received criticism after The Carroll County Times published a photograph of him holding a gun to the head of a handcuffed suspect during a 1996 drug raid.

"And what county taxpayers get for his annual salary of $37,500 is an old-fashioned, no-nonsense conservative Republican who boasts of his disdain for bleeding-heart liberals, drug dealers, plea bargains, lazy employees and squandered money," The Sun observed in a 1998 article.

Mr. Brown conducted his work from a tiny basement office in the Carroll County Detention Center.

Among the items in his office were a nonworking Thompson submachine gun, a boltless M-1 rifle and a World War II-era carbine, from which was suspended a slogan whose intention was to inspire his deputies: "NEW INCENTIVE PLAN — WORK OR BE FIRED."

Public defenders decried his order that inmates appear in court wearing black-and-white jump suits with an orange "P" on the back, except for jury trials. Mr. Brown quickly answered the criticism: "Tell them it's a jail, not a hotel."

When the detention center was overflowing with inmates, Mr. Brown raised eyebrows when he proposed erecting tents and installing portable toilets in a fenced courtyard to hold inmates and suggested raising a posse to assist detention center guards.

In 1998, Mr. Brown, who was running for a third time, faced Kenneth L. Tregoning, a state police lieutenant who had been commander of the Westminster and Frederick barracks. Mr. Brown told The Sun that his opponent was "handing out speeding tickets while I handled major crimes," and said that during his tenure, the department was "vastly improved" from the days when it was "Andy of Mayberry and loaded with Barney Fifes."

"When I was sworn in as sheriff, I set guidelines and never deviated from them," he told The Sun.

He was overwhelmingly defeated by Mr. Tregoning, who will retire as sheriff at the end of 2014.

"I first ran against him in 1994 and lost, and in 1998 I won," Mr. Tregoning said. "John's style of policing was pretty much old school that dated to the 1950s and 1960s, and he carried that style into office."

"Modern policing is very different now, but I think his heart was always in the right place," said Mr. Tregoning. "I thought his accomplishments included the Drug Task Force and the expansion of the vastly overcrowded detention center. John never minded telling you where he stood, and he could be boisterous and flamboyant at times."

In retirement, Mr. Brown enjoyed reading about the Civil War, World War I and World War II, and visiting nearby Civil War battlefields. He was a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, big bands and classic Hollywood movies.

His wife of one year, the former Helen Raugzen, died in 1992.

Mr. Brown was a communicant of St. John Roman Catholic Church, 43 Monroe St., in Westminster, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Surviving are two sons, Michael D. Brown of Baltimore and Stephen H. Brown of Littlestown, Pa.; three daughters, Kathleen Haines Martin of Hanover, Mary Lang of Abingdon and Sarah Heflin of Lawrenceville, Ga.; a brother, Paul S. Brown of Malta; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. Marriages to the former Doris Wiggly and Frances Ruhl ended in divorce.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad