Brown: Strive to meet your goals
Published 9:50 am Saturday, February 18, 2017
By Courtney Zetar
The Orange Leader
Know as Mr. Brown, Charlie Brown is one of the most important figures in the city of Orange.
As an Educator at Benjamin Franklyn Elementary School in Orange TX, he helped to shape the minds and attitudes of every student he could possibly reach during his tenure.
After retirement, he became known as Mr. Brown the Barber, for his barbershop, which has been a cornerstone for the inner city for over 30 years. Charlie also served as a City Council Member and a member of the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce. But, there is so much more to the man known in his home town as simply “C.B”
Charlie Bell Brown was born June 16, 1930. His parent’s Thomas and Ellen Brown raised Charlie with his five sisters and three brothers in Rust County, Texas.
Charlie grew up in a time of segregation and his parents taught him from a very young age the importance of a good education. Brown attended Henderson High School and finished the remainder of his schooling at Mayflower High School, graduating in 1952.
Within that same year, Brown joined the United States Army.
He was quickly deployed to parts of Japan to fight in the Korean War.
“At that time we had 26 black men in our platoon, and all 26 of us were assigned to go to Japan and fight,” Brown said.
Never questioning his duties as an Army man, Brown said he always did his job; no matter what the job required. Charlie had and uneasy feeling about those times. Being that one could serve as a member of America’s military, but come home and not be able to drink from the same water fountain.
“It always bothered me to be labeled,” Brown said. “When someone would say I’m an African-American it didn’t sit with me well. If someone is from Japan they are Japanese and if they come from Australia they are Australian, so I am an American period, that’s what I fought for and would have died at the time for.”
Brown was one of the most decorated Army men of his platoon, earning three battle stars during the war, and also receiving The Presidential Citation Award. This distinguished award is given to Uniformed services of the United States, and those of allied countries, for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy on or after December 7, 1941- the date of the Attacks on Pearl Harbor.
In 1954, after returning from the war, Charlie met a woman by the name of Lucille in Kilgore, Texas.
“I knew from the first time I saw her that I wanted to marry her,” Brown said.
He told her, “If in the next few days I do anything wrong, we won’t get married, but if I do everything right we will.”
She agreed and in just 19 days the two took a trip to Galveston.
Unbeknown to his sister in law and her husband, who went along for the ride, Charlie and Lucille surprised everyone when they met with the clergy to become husband and wife on June 6, 1954.
Charlie then decided to attend Prairie View A&M University in 1954. Brown gives his wife the credit for that decision.
“If it wasn’t for her [his wife] I wouldn’t have went there,” Brown said. “I went because she was also going there.”
He earned a Major in Physical Education and a Minor in Elementary. Graduating in 1958, Brown was contacted by George Hudspeth, an administrator at Beaumont Independent School District.
“At the time they were looking for teachers with the potential to come and teach at Benjamin Franklyn Elementary in Orange.” Brown said.
After being assured that he got the job, Brown had to accept a part time job first as the janitor at the school. Within the year, Charlie became a full time teacher. Not long after he was told that he would also become the principal.
His wife, Lucille, joined him in teaching as well, becoming one of the most influential teachers of her tenure at Franklyn. During this time, the city was dealing with integration and so was Charlie.
“I had to adjust to certain things that I wasn’t used to,” Brown said. “Not just as a teacher, but also as a citizen.”
Charlie recalls going to several field trips with the students and being amazed that they were able to drink from the same water fountain.
Brown excelled as a teacher and principal at Franklyn Elementary. Earning several awards in the process including, the State Association Award, and the Teachers Association Award.
“I didn’t come here to be liked, I came here to educate,” said Brown. “It wasn’t about being liked it was about doing right.”
One of the greatest joys Charlie has had is to see one of his students excel in life.
Brown is also a Deacon at Mount Olive Baptist Church under the leadership of Reverend Ronnie A.E. Crockett, Sr.
Charlie Brown retired from teaching in 1986.
Shortly after retirement Brown opened a small Barbershop in Orange, first on Lutcher Drive and then on West Park Ave.
Charlie had already had a Master Barber License as a young man, and had always wanted his own shop. It is there at “the shop” where Brown gained a great deal of respect form so many people within the community. Charlie didn’t barber for just himself he also gave a lot of up and coming barbers an opportunity to make something of themselves.
Brown’s Barbershop has become a historical landmark to those of the black community in Orange. Greeting his customers with his signature smile and firm handshake, Brown has also treated his guest with respect and dignity. Children would receive a piece of candy at the end of a haircut.
Charlie’s career wasn’t just education and cutting hair. He was also apart of the City Council Board of Parks and Recreation, and the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce.
During his time with the chamber, he help turn what was a bowling alley, into the education building at Lamar State College – Orange.
Brown is also a life time member of the American Legion, the VFW, and the NAACP.
In 2004, Lucille died after a five year battle with stomach cancer.
She was survived by Charlie and their three sons and one daughter.
Charlie misses his wife dearly, often reminiscing on their time together.
“She believed in me and I love her to this day for that,” said Brown.
Charlie doesn’t own the barbershop anymore but still stops by to get his haircut from one of his prodigies Chris Thibodaux.
Standing outside waiting for an open chair Brown said he still doesn’t believe in handouts.
“Set your goals and strive to meet them, but remember you will never meet them if you don’t set your goals the right way,” Brown said.
So far, Charlie Bell Brown has met every goal that he has set for himself.