Longtime Leaders: Charles and Carolyn Brown have been fixtures in education, agriculture

By Kenny Wiley, kenny.wiley@theeagle.com

Charles “Coach” Brown and his wife, Carolyn, live on Lazy B-5 Ranch in southern Robertson County and run the Brahman cattle ranch on Sadberry Farm — land that has been in Carolyn’s family since 1895.

In 2014, on a fall Friday night under the lights, Carolyn and Charles Brown stood on the Buddy Moorhead Memorial Stadium turf in Conroe wearing purple jerseys to represent the 1960 and 1965 state champions from Conroe Booker T. Washington High School.

That night, the Browns said, was one of celebration: Charles Brown coached the pre-integration Bulldogs and brought home two Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) state titles. The PVIL was the governing body for black schools. According to reporting from the Houston Chronicle, members of both squads from the 1960s received state championship rings from Conroe High’s principal between quarters that night nearly five years ago.

In his 2017 book Thursday Night Lights: The Story of Black High School Football in Texas, Michael Hurd describes the 2014 ceremony as “an evening of remembrance, recognition and healing facilitated by high school football.”

Today, Carolyn and Charles Brown live well north of Downtown Bryan on Lazy B-5 Ranch in southern Robertson County, which the couple has owned and operated since its 1977 beginning. They run the Brahman cattle ranch on Sadberry Farm — land that has been in Carolyn’s family since 1895. Her grandfather, John Riley Sadberry, was a former slave and bought 3,000 acres of land for 12 cents an acre after working as a sharecropper post-enslavement, according to Carolyn.

The Browns have been married since 1955. They met in the early 1950s and were married on the Sadberry Farm. Charles coached and Carolyn taught students pre- and post-integration throughout their respective careers. Charles began coaching in 1950, and Carolyn began teaching in 1951, and they have shaped thousands of students’ lives. Their careers culminated with positions at Texas A&M in the 1980s.

Jim Mazurkiewicz, a former AgriLife Extension agent for Brazos County, praised the Browns for their work in numerous aspects of the agriculture world. The Browns have worked over the years, they said, with Texas A&M Extension, The A&M Beef Cattle Short Course and the Texas Department of Agriculture. Mazurkiewicz said he first met “Coach Brown,” as many call him, in October 1986 in Brenham. He asked Charles to serve on the Brazos County Extension Beef Committee that year.

Mazurkiewicz said it is important for advisory committees to mirror the industries they serve and represent in terms of race, gender and more — a consideration that led to his initial invitation.

“I was initially star-struck by his passion and knowledge in our industry,” Mazurkiewicz said.

At a ceremony earlier this month, Texas A&M’s Animal Science department established the Charles Brown Endowed Fellowship, a fellowship designed to support graduate students and research projects in the beef cattle industry. The endowment’s supporters include former A&M head coaches R.C. Slocum and Jackie Sherrill. Coach Brown, who said he served as a recruiter under Sherrill, has rings from A&M’s Cotton Bowl victories following the 1985 and 1987 seasons.

“I have met several of Charles’s past football players that he’s coached who are now in agriculture and very active,” Mazurkiewicz said. “Regardless of what ethnic group we’re talking about, we all need mentors and role models in our lives. He has my highest respect and admiration.”

Carolyn’s farm and ranch experience originates from early in her life. Her parents and grandparents owned and operated the Sadberry Farm, which was an extensive farm and ranch operation that included cattle, cotton, pecans, fruit orchards, sheep, goats, hay and produce.

Born Carolyn Joyce Sadberry, she graduated from Prairie View A&M in 1951. She also has graduate degrees from Prairie View, the University of Houston and from Colorado A&M, which today is Colorado State University.

She became a teacher and worked for six different Texas school districts. After living apart in the initial years of their marriage, the two were able to find jobs in the same school district beginning in Conroe in the 1960s. Her career in education culminated with a position at Texas A&M’s College of Education supervising student teachers.

Beyond being an active presence in schools and with her husband’s football programs, Carolyn’s community work has ranged widely, she said. She has endeavored to bring water to rural areas in central Texas through the OSR Water Supply Corporation board. She has also spent time on the board of the Landowners Association of Texas. Carolyn has committed to years of work on road preservation and improving rural maintenance and signage, preservation of mineral right ownership for oil leases and preservation of the Wilson Chapel Cemetery.

Her father, she said, died when she was 3 in a car accident. “My older sister told me I was just like my father used to be. She said, ‘You’re always working on something.’ I guess I got that from him — enjoying working on the roads, working with commissioners. It’s something I’ve always done,” Carolyn said.

Wayne Sadberry, a cousin of Carolyn’s and curator at the Brazos Valley African American Museum since 2006, described his cousin as intelligent, thoughtful and “a fine person.”

“In a segregated society, which is what we all grew up in, we had to depend on each other and focus on each other,” Sadberry said. “Teachers like Carolyn went beyond just being a teacher. They cared about you as a person, and that’s the kind of thing you’d see in those communities.”

Charles Brown, who grew up near Lake Conroe in Montgomery County, began his coaching career in 1950 in Shepherd, just after he graduated from Texas College.

“I was the one coach, and I coached everything, every sport — boys, girls, everything,” he said.

He coached at Shepherd’s Dixon High for three years before entering the U.S. Army. Brown served as player-coach on a football team in the 1954 Armed Forces Europe championship, then returned to Texas and coached at Livingston’s all-black Dunbar High.

“I was working in Livingston, and she was working in Navasota,” Charles said. “We would only see each other on weekends. There weren’t apartments then — not for black people, anyway — so she was living with a family there and I was living with a family in Livingston. There weren’t black motels in a lot of those towns, and so I would come to where she stayed or vice versa.”

Charles said that though Deep Southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi had the highest-profile Jim Crow conditions, he described Texas’ culture of segregation and white supremacy as “no different.”

“There were black water fountains and white ones, you had separate restrooms and we had to go to the back of a white café. They didn’t have restrooms for Negroes, to use the terms they used then. The schools were separate, and we had to get secondhand books,” he said.

“The white schools played on Friday nights, and we had to play on Thursday or Saturday,” he added. Brown said he would not accept hand-me-down pads, helmets or other equipment from Conroe High School, which was entirely white before integration. Both Browns helped raise funds with boosters to be able to purchase new equipment.

“I enjoyed coaching because I was doing something I knew something about,” he said. “I love sports. As a coach, you liked to see a raw talent come to you and then look at them a month later, a season later. It was great to see them develop,” he said.

In 1960, after both Browns moved to Conroe, Coach Brown’s Washington Bulldogs prepared to host Midland Carver for the PVIL 2A title game. Black people were not allowed in Conroe’s main stadium. “You could peek in through the fence,” Coach Brown said, “but we couldn’t go in.”

The school district eventually allowed Washington High and its team to host the title game in Conroe’s stadium. “The night before the game,” Brown told Hurd, “they let my daddy in because he was a preacher. He walked around the track, and I found out later that he had been praying for us.”

In Thursday Night Lights, Hurd described the Browns as “a formidable force,” positively influencing students at Washington High. He wrote that Carolyn cooked for the team before every home game and fed the players at the Browns’ home. She also repaired uniforms and practice jerseys.

“Since the school district didn’t provide a washing machine,” Hurd wrote, “Carolyn stepped in as laundress. … It was not unusual to pass the Browns’ house and see freshly washed football uniforms hanging from the family fence.”

“We lost nine games in six years,” Charles Brown told the Chronicle in 2014 of his time at Conroe Washington. “Four of those were in the playoffs. We didn’t have many problems with discipline. I’ve seen a lot of these guys over the years, and it’s great to stay in touch.”

His coaching career also included post-integration stints in Aldine and at Forest Brook. His 36-year career ended with an overall record of 203 wins, 101 losses and one tie.

Sadberry described the longtime couple as invaluable to the community. “They’re positive images and people. People who know them respect them. They’re genuine and they’re real solid people.”


via source The Eagle  |  Longtime Leaders: Charles and Carolyn Brown have been fixtures in education, agriculture

For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Berger at maggielberger@tamu.edu or (979) 845-1542.

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