Joe Brown Remembered
I worked with Joe Brown at the Times Record News from 2000 through 2004. I am deeply saddened at the news today of his death.
It took me a while, after I first started working at the paper, to remember seeing him on TV when I was a kid growing up in Duncan, Oklahoma. To be sure, I was not, at age 7, tuning into his farm report or community announcements. Rather, Channel 3 was just a mandatory stopover on the TV dial on the way to (I think) Channel 11, which carried “Slam Bang Theatre,” a cartoon show that, on rare occasions, my mom would let us watch before leaving for school.
But anyway, I soon figured out that I was around a guy who, well, had been around. Not only was Joe a local star of print and screen – with his morning program on KFDX and his daily column at the paper – he was also an agricultural expert, a former bull rider, a family man, and a helluva writer. On the rare occasions that Lee Anderson and Nick Gholson wouldn’t shoo me away from corner of the newsroom they shared with Joe, I would hover around and listen to the three of them talk about the old days in the newsroom and in the news business. Their stories described the news business that I’d dreamed of being part of, with scandals and politicians and dirty secrets and riding around in cop cars and all-night shenanigans and liquor bottles in desk drawers and all manner of gritty, glamorous, enterprise, instead of the air-brushed, watered-down, press release machine I’d ended up in.
Suffice it to say I met Joe Brown after he’d done most of his “Joe Brown” stuff. When I met him, he was getting on in years, dealing with health issues, and no longer seeking much adventure, either personally or professionally. But he was always kind, always polite, and always had time to visit.
On occasion, I’d come across one of his articles from back in the day and was always impressed with the clarity and deftness of his writing. He was a natural storyteller, in both the written and spoken form, and could convey the deepest of feelings using only the most modest of language. And that is not easy.
Outside the newsroom, Joe was a constant threat to drive his KFDX-logo-emblazoned pickup the wrong way down the downtown streets surrounding the paper. This was not entirely his fault, for over the years, pretty much every downtown street has switched from one-way to two-way – or vice versa. And considering how baffled I get when the sugar is where the creamer is supposed to be, I can only imagine the shock to the system such a change might be to a septuagenarian who probably first drove downtown in a Model T. (Sorry, Joe.) Anyway, in the meantime, I simply learned to take nothing for granted while driving my own vehicle down the street downtown, a lesson that has paid off many times, the vast majority of them unrelated to Joe.
I remember the time Joe came shuffling into the newsroom, at an even slower rate than usual, and when he got close enough, I could see that his head and arms were badly battered and cut up. Shocked, I asked him what in the world had happened and he said that he’d been on his tractor out in Charlie and had (unsuccessfully) tried to navigate under a low-hanging tree limb, scraping himself right out his seat and off the back of the tractor. I then learned that this was not Joe’s first unplanned farmer vs peach tree exchange.
It’s a wonder he lived as long as he did.
But live, he did. Like few people do. Joe lived a long, productive, audacious, patriotic, memorable life, a life he shared with the people of this community for more than 50 years.
He, of course, was a devoted family man, who spoke often and lovingly of his wife, Joan, and their two sons, Charles and Michael. But I never met his family. To me, his family was the staff at the Times Record News. And, today, I am as sad for his newspaper family as anything else. I know they, like me, are alternately grieving and grinning as they recall the days and years they spent in his company.
You’ll be missed Joe Brown. But you will not be forgotten. Godspeed.