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Joe Brown, veteran South Carolina state representative, dies at 84

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Joe Brown

Former state Rep. Joe Brown, D-Richland. Provided.

Joe Brown, an educator and former long-serving African-American state representative, died Sunday. He was 84.

Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright considered Brown both a friend and the model of what a public servant should be.

"He was known as the master of constituent services," Seawright said of Brown, saying he never missed a community meeting or function during his time in office. "It’s not what you say, but what you do. Perhaps his public service is the greatest testament to that."

Elected to the Statehouse in 1986, the Richland County Democrat served House District 73 for 20 years. During his time in the Legislature, the Anderson County native served as chairman of the Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee. From 1992-1994, he also served as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

At one time, Brown was the sole Democratic committee chair in a legislative body controlled by Republicans, according to a 2006 biography of Brown from the South Carolina African American History Calendar.

Jaime Harrison, the former state Democratic Party chairman who is now an adviser at the national Democratic Party, worked with Brown when he returned to work in South Carolina. Harrison said he still remembers the encouragement he received from Brown.

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"He said to me, 'Young man, I want you to come here and let's talk about how I can help you.' For a young guy getting into politics at a higher level, it's always good to have elders like him open the door for you and try to help you because that does not always happen," Harrison said.

Brown was honored for his service with a House resolution in June 2006, in which he was thanked for his more than 20 years of service.

"A life of service has come to an end, but former Rep. Joe E. Brown's legacy will live on through the thousands of lives he touched," the S.C. House Republican Caucus tweeted Sunday.

Before his time as a politician, Brown worked as a principal and educator in Richland County. In 1956, Brown graduated from Allen University, making him the first college graduate in his family. He would go on to receive his masters degree from South Carolina State University in 1961 and completed post-graduate studies at the University of South Carolina.

On March 11, 1956, Brown married his wife, Dorothy. Together, they had four children: Angela Gay, L'Tanya Gabriel, and the late Kathy Ann and Joe Ellis Brown, Jr.

Brown was also a lifelong member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Arrow's Bridge Club for Professional Men and the Eau Claire Rotary Club.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

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