“When I was your age, I walked twenty miles to school and twenty miles back”. This was an adage Jim Brown, and his peers, spoke affectionately to their youngers. It was his generation’s mantra towards earning one’s wages and successes in life. And it was Jim Brown’s lifelong measures that exemplifies meaningful contribution to society, specifically Black America.
Jim Brown, born James Augustus Brown Jr. on July 02, 1935 spent his first four years of his life at his birthplace in Miami FL. His father and mother, James A. Brown Sr and Dorothy L. Bailey relocated the family in 1939 to Philadelphia, PA. It was here in this City of Brotherly Love, Jim would learn and nurture the values of studious learning and work ethics. While attending Spring Garden and John Hancock elementary schools, Bobby, as he was affectionately known by all, would excel in his academics by committing himself to after school hours of studies and follow-ups with his classroom teachers. These traits of studious learning, Bobby would pass onto his younger brothers, Harold, Kenneth and Oran. Jim, as he was known as he began to mature, certainly safeguarded his blessing of siblings by maintaining strong, close relationships with them, ever serving them as their elder brother, their support system and their confidant. He also role-modeled industry by selling brown paper shopping bags during his years as a teenager.
Harold, Jim’s partner in no-crime, recalls how Jim taught him a great life lesson. They together attended Roosevelt Junior High School, a great distance away from their home at the Richard Allen Homes in North Philadelphia. As boys will be boys, Harold was bullied by a few classmates on the school playground. Harold conferred with his elder brother as to how they should respond to the bullying. With wisdom, Jim advised his younger brother to contain the urge to react in the usual way as the consequences for such a reaction would be dealt with in a most unusual way. The lesson learned was to graduate from Roosevelt Junior High and later Germantown High, unscathed by negative marks on their academic records. And they both did.
Jim graduated from Germantown High School in 1953 and went on to matriculate at Pennsylvania State University. In the next four years, enduring the Happy Valley winters, Jim remained steadfast in earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry. During those four years, Jim returned home each summer to earn money that would supplement the financial support his parents offered him towards tuition.
Upon graduating from Pennsylvania State University, and becoming a life member of the Pennsylvania State University Alumni Association, Jim became a forensic scientist for the City of Philadelphia. A person of color serving as a forensic scientist in the late 1950s was a trailblazing achievement in a time of racial job discrimination. During this time, Jim served also as a Combat Medic in the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 225th Calvary, Pennsylvania National Guard.
Subsequent years later, Jim chose to elevate his family’s status in society by purchasing a larger row house. The family moved from the Richard Allen Homes to a predominantly white neighborhood in West Oak Lane, becoming the second Black family in the neighborhood. This allowed his youngest brother Oran to attend Olney High School. Each and every step of advancement Jim took, it benefited those close to him.
Green eyes and tall. Undeniable physical traits. And yet those traits were not the better part of Jim. Intellect, forward thinking and loyalty to family were intangible qualities that Jim held dear as a person. Those qualities were the attractions his future wife found in him. Jim married Phyllis S. Wyche in 1962 during his tenure at the City of Philadelphia. At the onset of his marriage to the Mt. Airy native, Jim joined Merck Pharmaceutical Company. Afterwards, he joined DuPont Pharmaceuticals. It was there that he helped invent and patent for DuPont the process for the adhesion of teflon on to cookware. Jim Brown, a former resident of the Richard Allen Homes had much to do with the invention of teflon which society enjoys today.
In 1966, at the persuasion of a trusted friend, Jim began his career of selling mainframe computers to clients and customers of the International Business Machine (IBM) corporation. Not only did he sell, but he continuously exceeded his quota, thus earning him membership in the IBM 100 Percent Club. As more corporations incorporated mainframe computers into their business processing, those corporation found themselves entering the dynamics of managing Information Systems. Jim seeing the need, assisted IBM’s newly formed division that would address the growing market demand for Information Systems consulting. Hence Jim coined the phrase “The IBM Difference”. Continuing onwards in the company, maintaining his membership in the 100 Percent club and growing IBM’s place in Information Systems, Jim retired as Program Manager in the summer of 1993 at the IBM facility in Bethesda, MD. With pride and admiration for his contributions to the company, IBM held a retirement luncheon and gifted Jim with a Jaeger-LeCoutre Atmos clock, an exemplification of his brilliant and shining career with the IBM.
In 1968, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Rho Chapter (Philadelphia) received Jim into their brotherhood. Afterwards he continually advanced the ideals of scholarship and advancement, congruent to his internal compass. In subsequent years, with faith and confidence in the continued work of Alphas, Jim became a life member in 1986. In 2002, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, Beta Pi Boule (Harrisburg) received Jim into their membership, also congruent to his continued principles of scholarship.
Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the early 2000s, the 6’4” 220 pound adventurer traveled to various places of interest. Accompanying him, at times, were his young sons James A III (Jay) and Jerald A (Jerry). At other times, his cousins and trusted friends. Together they visited Hawaii, toured Mexico, vacationed in the Caribbean, trekked Europe, explored Egypt and journeyed through Japan. He also frequented the Black Skiers Summit and reveled in a plethora of Jazz concerts featuring prominent Black jazz artists. And when at home, Jim would gleefully play classical music to the stubborn ears of his sons.
In later years, Jim hosted luncheons in his home at Myrtle Beach, S.C. He did so to continue and promote conversations on topics alike Black history, science and art, the state of Black America and personal growth. And in consequence of Jim’s presence in that locale, Black Intelligentsia thrived. In his latter years, Jim returned homeward to Philadelphia to serve further as a loving father, grandfather, cousin and friend to his family and lifelong friends.
Alas James Augustus Brown Jr. was called to his heavenly home on Sunday November 22, 2020, there to join his parents, his brothers Kenneth and Oran, other family members and good friends whose earthly lives gave and still give testimony to the goodness of the Lord, Our God.
Remaining on Earth to cherish their grandfather’s memory are: Natthadawan “Betty”, Mya Breanna, Mia Renee, Jaysson Kalel, Agnes Marie, Madison Mya, Marilyn Lamia, and Macy. He also leaves to mourn: his brother Harold (Charmayne dec’d); his sons James, III (Doris dec’d) (Breanna) and Jerald (Mathurot “Lisa”). He will always be remembered for his doting upon his nieces Adrienne, Jennifer, Laini “Muki”, Ayanna, Alexandra (Eric) and Kai. Jim also leaves to mourn, a faithful friend Gwen Sillman, a host of cousins, extended family members and close friends.
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