Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The Scarlet Scourge

In his day, Matt Brown was considered one of the best football players in the football powerhouse state of Ohio.  Not a big man at all and weighing in as a senior in high school at 157 pounds, Brown played in an era when the single wing formation was the offense of the day.  Brown, a fast and strong blocker, was a natural quarterback and fullback, who blocked for the halfback who ran and threw passes under the single wing formation.  
Matt Brown, a son of Solmon and Thenia Brown,  was born in Dublin, Georgia in 1922.  The Brown family soon moved to Canton, Ohio.  Ironically Canton is the home of the National Football Hall of Fame.  And, it was football which made Matt Brown famous in the State of Ohio. 

Brown was more than a fast and effective blocker.  In those days, most players played both ways on offense and defense.  It was on defense where Brown shined at linebacker.  Although no defensive stats from his days at McKinley High in Canton, Ohio and at Ohio State University survive, Brown was regarded by his peers as one of the best of the Scarlet and Gray, the runner up for the 1944 NCAA National Championship. 

Brown enrolled in McKinley High, an integrated high school in Canton.  McKinley High is seventh in the nation in all time football wins with 739, coming in behind its chief, long time rival, Massillon.  The two Starke County schools, located 8 miles apart, are the all time kings of Ohio high school football and two of the nation's greatest football programs.  McKinley won the 1934 High School National Championship.   Massillon was the top team in the nation in 1935, 1936 and 1940.  

Matt Brown joined the team in 1939 as a 160-pound right half back under coach John Reed.  One of his idols at McKinley was the great Marion Motley, a fellow Georgian, who went on to become a stalwart member of the Cleveland Browns and the second African American  member of NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. 

In the 1939 contest, Matt Brown managed to score his team's only touchdown in yet another loss to Massillon. 

After Massillon's victory in the 1940, their legendary coach Paul Brown paid homage to Matt Brown, the McKinley captain,  for fighting his heart out  in an effort to win the game.  It would be Paul Brown's last game as a high school coach and Matt Brown's last as a high school player.  The following year, Coach Brown took the reins of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  After the end of the war, he became the coach of the Cleveland Browns leading them to 4 AAFC titles and 3  NFL championships.

For his efforts in his final two seasons, Matt Brown was named to the All-Ohio team.  He was generally regarded as McKinley's best player in the 1940 season.   Going with Coach Brown to Ohio State was his assistant coach, Carroll Whiddoes.  Both men remembered Matt's heart, drive and determination in the two games against Massillon  and convinced him to join the team.  They made a wise choice as Dublin native lettered for three seasons.

The 1943 Buckeyes, decimated by the loss of many of their best players to the war effort, managed to earn three easy victories, but the Ohioans lost twice as many games in Paul Brown's final season in the collegiate ranks.  In 1944, Brown joined the Navy and coached a team at  the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. 

For most of the 1943 season, Matt Brown was nagged by injuries.  On October 9, 1943 at Ross Field in Chicago, Matt Brown was a part of trio of backs who made college football history.  In the game against Great Lakes, Matt Brown started at fullback, Red Williams started at quarterback, and Jasper Harris was the starting halfback.  What was remarkable about that lineup was that all three backs were graduates of the same high school, McKinley High in Canton. It was a mark which has rarely, if ever, been matched in the 145 years of college football.   Brown played some at quarterback, who in the single wing formation was primarily only a blocking back. 

It was during his junior season of 1944 when Matt Brown stepped it up another notch. Brown was a monster on defense, then under Coach Whiddoes.  Brown, on defense,  lead the team which easily outpaced all of its opponents, except in the Michigan game, which they won by only four points.   

Brown was one of two starting offensive backs with experience. The other was Lee Horvath, a graduate student in dental school, who was allowed to come back and play in his last year of eligibility.  Horvath had a breakout season in 1944, gaining 669 rushing yards and 1,200 all-purpose yards as the Buckeyes turned in a 9 0 record and finished second in the national polls, behind the powerful and unbeatable Army team. 

In 1945, Brown was a stalwart on defense, playing with Oliver Cline, who went on to play six seasons in professional football.  The Buckeyes finished 7-2, with a close loss to Michigan and a stunning upset by Purdue.  

After leaving football at the end of the 1945 season, Matt Brown returned to the athletic fields in 1948 when he was hired by Coach Bill Bell as the boxing coach of the North Carolina A&T Aggies.    Brown coached the Aggie boxing team to a Central Inter-collegiate Athletic Association tide in 1952. In 1952 and 1953, Brown's tennis team garnered the conference championship. 

Brown left A&T in 1954.  Fourteen years later he returned as the head tennis coach and assistant football coach under Hornsby Howell. 

At A&T, Brown was heralded as one of the university's exceptional backfield coaches.   His star players included William "Red" Jackson, the Aggies' All-American quarterback in the early 1950's. Brown also coached Art Statuni, who won the NCAA heavyweight boxing championship in 1953. 

After a long illness, Matt Brown died on June 22, 1976 in a Greensboro, N.C. hospital.   Brown was still in the prime of life as a coach.   

In his brief stay on the Earth, Matt Brown was one of the lucky ones, a group of young African American Laurens County boys from the 191os and 1920s, which included boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, baseball all star Quincy Trouppe, Negro League footballer Otis Troup,  inventor Claude Harvard, N.A.S.A. physicist Robert Shurney and Tuskegee Airmen; Cummings, John Whitehead and Marion Rodgers.  These young men were able to escape the bondage of the South's social and political ways of their youths to exceed at the highest levels in athletics, science and military service. 

Friday, February 6, 2015


In the short month of February when the short days seem to fly by, I will present a series of footnotes of February in our past. This week, in conjunction with Black History month, here are some brief happenings which relate to the African American heritage of our community. THE KING OF THE SHOE SHINERS - There had always been a barber shop in the New Dublin Hotel on South Jefferson Street. In 1962, the shop moved across the street south of the old bank building. In 1902 Richard Hamlet opened the first shop. He was followed by Joe Underwood, S.F. Beasley, and J.C. Williams. For fifty of those sixty years, "Ether" Jackson shined shoes in the shop. "Ether" - he called himself that because he was so smooth that he put people to sleep - came with Joe Underwood from Gibson, Georgia, about 1910. He took on other odd jobs to support his family. Jackson figured that he shined between 25 and 35 pairs of shoes a day, six days a week, for at least fifty seven years. That is somewhere between three hundred thousand and a half million pairs of shoes. Ether was one of the most popular persons in the downtown area while he was shining shoes for thousands of Dublin's men. One day, Ether was having a conversation with State Senator and Courier Herald Publisher, Herschel Lovett. Lovett, bragging to Ether said, "Ether, you see that they have named that new bridge over the river for me." Yes, sir," Ether retorted," but they put it on my street, E. Jackson Street." Dublin Courier Herald, June 23, 1962, Aug. 30, 1967, p. 1. THE FIRST BLACK BUSINESSMEN - The first corporation organized by Black Laurens Countians was the Farmers Enterprise, Incorporated. The company dealt in farm equipment, supplies, and goods. Founders of the company included Rev. A.T. Speight, George Fullwood, George Locke, John Thomas, Ed Thomas, and Ed Foster. The corporation's offices were located in a building which was formerly located at the northwest corner of South Lawrence and West Madison Streets. Five months later, Dr. U.S. Johnson, Joe Hudson, and N.T. Brown incorporated the first black owned pharmacy, the Regent, on South Lawrence Street. DCH 1/15/1914, p. 6, DCH 2/19/1914, p. 8, DCH 5/7/1914, p. 4. HIS FIRST TIME ON THE STAGE - Little Lorenzo didn't go the movies very often as a child. When he did go, he always sat in a certain section of the theater. Lorenzo never got the chance to get close to the stage. He always sat in the back, up the balcony. He never even got to go on the main floor of the auditorium. You see little Lorenzo was forced to sit in that section. It was during the days before theaters were integrated. Little Lorenzo grew up and left his hometown for a higher education. Little Lorenzo became Lorenzo Mason, an engineer for an architectural engineering firm. Mason's firm was hired to design the engineering work for a theater. Mason, as the chief engineer, designed the removal of the old balcony, which separated the patrons of the theater by race and which was replaced with a new balcony - this time for sound, light, and air conditioning equipment. Mason and his colleagues had to find a way to keep the ground water out of the theater - a problem which plagued theater owners and patrons for forty years. That problem was solved in short order. Some of his friends and fellow construction personnel never knew that Mason was born and lived in that same town. The time came for the final inspection of the construction work on the theater. It was then, over thirty years later, when Lorenzo Mason finally made it to the stage of the Martin Theater (Theatre Dublin) for the first time - this time as the chief engineer of the project to renovate the theater where, as a child, he was never allowed to go on the main floor. As suggested by Richie Allen, formerly of Allen's Plumbing and Heating. A MIGHTY PREACHER MAN - The Rev. Norman G. McCall served as pastor of the First African Baptist Church of Dublin for nineteen years. Rev. McCall was a giant of a man and known all over for his Herculean strength. Rev. McCall worked on the riverboats and it was said that he could swim across the river with two sacks of fertilizer under his arms. Rev. McCall was active in the organization of the schools in the black community in the 1880s. His family lived in the southwestern portion of Dublin between Marcus and Marion Streets. Rev. McCall served on the Executive Board of Central City College and as President of the State Sunday School Board of Education. He was a member of the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Laboring Friends. On June 15, 1904, after suffering for several months with dropsy, Rev. McCall fell dead in his field. His funeral procession was one of the longest in Dublin's history, nearly one mile long. Dublin Times, June 18, 1904, p. 1. DISTINGUISHED ELDERLY CITIZEN - One of the oldest, if not the oldest citizen of Laurens County, was Madison Moore. Mr. Moore died on November 15, 1912, at the authenticated age of 112 years. Madison Moore had lived most of his life on the old Gov. Troup place on the east side of the Oconee River. Madison Moore, who was known as "Hatless" Moore was a body guard and coach driver for his master, Gov. George M. Troup. His nickname came from the numerous times his hat blew off while driving Governor Troup. At his death Mr. Moore's descendants numbered in the hundreds. Many of his descendants live in Laurens County today. Dublin Courier Dispatch, Nov. 21, 1912. A TERRIBLE DEATH - Albert A. Lewis, of Laurens County, loved his country. He served for six years in the United States Army through all of World War II. When the United States entered into the Korean War, Lewis re-enlisted in the Army. Sergeant Lewis fell into the hands of the North Koreans and was sent to a prison camp. Word was sent to the American government that Lewis died of pulmonary tuberculosis. Nearly three years after his death the truth was revealed about the death of Sgt. Lewis. Lewis did not die from tuberculosis, but from malnutrition. He starved to death. "Dublin Courier Herald, July 16, 1955."