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Samuel J. Brown
*Samuel Joe Brown was born on this date in 1875. He was a Black lawyer and activist.
Samuel “Joe” Brown was born in Keosauqua, Iowa, to Elizabeth (Henderson) Brown and Lewis Brown. Lewis, a teamster, traced the family lineage to the original 20 slaves brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Moving north from Missouri, his parents settled in a part of town called "Hangman's Hollow." His mother performed housework for white families, including several lawyers. She told Joe she hoped that he would become a lawyer someday. In 1885 the family moved to Ottumwa.
By the time he was 14, both of his parents had died, and Joe began working as a bellboy in a hotel to pay his way through high school. He became the first Black to graduate from Ottumwa High School, where he excelled academically. He graduated from the University of Iowa (UI) with a bachelor's degree in 1896. He received a law degree from UI in 1899, a master's degree in 1903, and was the first Black Phi Beta Kappa scholar at the school. On New Year's eve 1902, he married Sue M. Wilson.
In 1917, he served with the U.S. Army 17th Provisional Training Regiment at Fort Des Moines and co-founded the National Bar Association in 1925. Attorney Brown also founded the Crocker Street YMCA, the Des Moines branch NAACP (1914), and the Des Moines Interracial Commission. A prominent appeals attorney, he successfully pleaded the first restaurant-discrimination case before the Iowa Supreme Court in 1906. Brown also served on the Iowa Republican Central Committee. His community-activist wife, Sue Wilson Brown, was a longtime president of the Iowa State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. Samuel Brown died on July 24, 1950.