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Richard Jerome Brown, 85, Dunbar High coach, teacher


Everyone called him Coach. And over the course of three decades, hundreds of Dunbar High School students and athletes heard Richard "Dickie" Jerome Brown repeat his favorite quote: "A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits."

Mr. Brown died of complications from diabetes Tuesday at the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Baltimore. He was 85.

Born in South Baltimore, Mr. Brown was a 1937 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School. He attended Coppin State Teachers College but left after two years. He drove cabs, waited tables and worked in the shipyards before he was drafted into the Army in 1943. During World War II, he served as an aviation cadet in Tuskegee, Ala.

Immediately after the war, he returned to Baltimore and enrolled in what is now Morgan State University. He graduated in 1951.

"He was a poor young man, but education was his tool. He was one of the first people in the family to go to college," said his daughter Lynda M. Brown of Baltimore. After college, he worked as a housing inspector for the City of Baltimore, but he dreamed of becoming a teacher.

In 1955, Mr. Brown earned a master's degree in education from New York University. He landed his first teaching job as a driver's education instructor at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. He quickly was promoted to math teacher and coach for the baseball team. Over the course of his long career there, he also coached basketball and intramural sports.

"He had a tremendous love for kids, especially kids from the inner city," said Bob Wade, who was coached by Mr. Brown at Dunbar and later was a University of Maryland men's basketball coach. "He would tell us about his childhood. He would do whatever he could to lead us on the right path because he had come up the hard way himself."

In the classroom, Mr. Brown cut an impressive image. He favored bowties and often wrote inspirational quotes on the blackboard. However, he reserved one not-so-inspirational quote for the field: "Go catch the rabbit." The phrase was directed toward anyone who disobeyed. It meant start running laps.

One of the many teenagers told to "catch the rabbit" was Del. Clarence Davis, a Baltimore Democrat.

Mr. Davis recalled quitting Mr. Brown's baseball team when, as a ninth-grader, he wasn't selected to be a starting player.

Mr. Davis soon missed the team and asked Mr. Brown for his place back. "Most coaches would have slammed the door in my face," said Mr. Davis. But Mr. Brown showed a softer side.

"Coach used it as an opportunity to teach and mentor me. I never quit anything after that," Mr. Davis said. "Coach kind of helped everyone grow up a bit."

Mr. Brown continued teaching and coaching at Dunbar until he retired in 1987. He lived in Grove Park until 2000, when he moved into an assisted living facility. Old friends, including Mr. Davis, visited often.

"It was tough watching him struggle ... because it went against the grain of the colossal image of Coach," Mr. Davis said. "He was a giant."

Mr. Brown's first marriage ended in divorce. His second, to Baltimore teacher Zelma Cole Brown, lasted 37 years until her death in 1998.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the John Wesley United Methodist Church, 3202 W. North Ave., Baltimore.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include two other daughters, Dreama B. Este of Baltimore and Raheema Raheem of Oklahoma; and eight grandchildren.

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