Jesse Brown

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Jesse Brown
2nd United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
In office
January 22, 1993 – July 13, 1997
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byEd Derwinski
Succeeded byTogo West
Personal details
Born(1944-03-27)March 27, 1944
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedAugust 15, 2002(2002-08-15) (aged 58)
Warrenton, Virginia, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseSylvia Scott
EducationCity Colleges of Chicago
Roosevelt University
Catholic University
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/service United States Marine Corps
Years of service1963–1965
Rank Corporal
Battles/warsVietnam War

Jesse Brown (March 27, 1944 – August 15, 2002) was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served as United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997.

Early life[edit]

Jesse Brown was born on March 27, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan,[1] to Lucille Marsh Brown and David Brown. He grew up in Chicago, Illinois,[1] and graduated with honors from the City Colleges of Chicago.[2] Married to Sylvia Scott Brown, they had two children, N. Scott Brown and Carmen Brown.

Military service[edit]

He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1963,[2] and served as a marine in the Vietnam War, reaching the rank of corporal. He was seriously injured in 1965 near Da Nang when he was shot in the right arm, which was left partially paralyzed.[2]

Returning to Chicago, in 1967 Brown became active in the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), a service and advocacy organization founded in 1920 to assist disabled veterans. He began taking classes at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Moving to the DAV's national office in Washington, D.C., he began taking classes at The Catholic University of America.[2]

Veterans service[edit]


In 1967, Brown joined the staff of the Disabled American Veterans. He served in various supervisory roles with the DAV in the 1970s and 1980s:[2]

  • 1973 — supervisor of National Service Office in Washington, D.C.
  • 1976 — supervisor of National Appeals Office
  • 1981 — Chief of Claims, National Service and Legislative Headquarters
  • 1983 — Deputy National Service Director

In 1988, Brown became the DAV's first African-American executive director, serving until 1993.

Jesse Brown and President Bill Clinton at the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery (1993)

Secretary of Veterans Affairs[edit]

In January 1993, Brown was selected by President Bill Clinton to the post of Secretary of Veterans Affairs,[3] serving until July 1997. He was the first African American to hold that post. He is also the first former enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces named Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. During his tenure, Brown expanded the services offered to female veterans, homeless veterans, and veterans who were ill due to chemical exposures in Vietnam or the Gulf War. After he resigned as secretary, Brown founded a consulting firm, Brown and Associates.[4]

Disabled veterans' memorial[edit]

Brown was one of three people who provided the impetus for the creation of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, a national memorial in Washington, D.C., which honors disabled veterans. In 1998, philanthropist Lois Pope realized there was no memorial to disabled veterans in the nation's capital. Although she did not know him, Pope called Brown's Veterans Affairs office to plead for a memorial. Pope called every day for the next six months, until finally Brown's secretary put her call through.[5][6] Brown agreed to support legislation establishing a memorial.[7] Brown introduced Pope to Art Wilson,[5] the National Adjutant (e.g., chief executive officer) of the DAV. The DAV was itself not a nonprofit, and thus Pope and Wilson agreed that a new foundation, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Foundation (AVDLMF; also known as the Disabled Veterans' LIFE Memorial Foundation) should be created.[5] Brown left office in 1997. Brown, Pope, and Wilson incorporated the foundation in 1998, and Wilson was named its president.[8] Brown served as the executive director of the American Disabled Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Foundation until his death.

The three individuals and their supporters began lobbying Congress to win passage of the necessary federal legislation.[6] Congress quickly approved the bill, and President Clinton signed it into law (Public Law 106–348) on October 24, 2000.[9][10] After a decade of fundraising, the memorial began construction in 2011. It was dedicated by President Barack Obama on October 5, 2014.[11] Two quotations by Brown are featured on the memorial.[12]


Brown died in Warrenton, Virginia on August 15, 2002, of lower motor neuron syndrome. He had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, since 1999.[1][4] His funeral was held at the Washington National Cathedral, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[2]

He was survived by his wife, Sylvia, and his children Carmen and Scott.[1]

The DAV established the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship in his honor. Eight scholarships are awarded each year to youth volunteers (aged 21 or younger) who have worked to assist disabled veterans and advanced the cause of disabled veterans' rights in the name of DAV. Scholarships are awarded in the following amounts: • One scholarship of $20,000 • One scholarship of $15,000 • One scholarship of $10,000 • Two scholarships of $7,500 • Three scholarships of $5,000[13]

Applications are available at[14]

In May 2004, the West Side VA Medical Center in Chicago was renamed the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in his honor.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Jesse Brown, 58, Ex-Marine Who Headed Veterans Dept". The New York Times. August 17, 2002. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Jesse Brown, 58; Ex-Marine Headed VA Under Clinton". Associated Press. August 17, 2002. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  3. ^ Barringer, Felicty (December 18, 1992). "The Transition:Clinton Selects Ex-Mayor for H.U.D. and an Ex-Marine for Veterans Affairs". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Jesse Brown, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Succumbs at 58 - National Report". Jet. September 2, 2002. Archived from the original on November 5, 2007. Retrieved December 25, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Smith, Thom (April 19, 2005). "Lois Pope's Philosophy in Life? 'Bite Off More Than You Can Chew, and Chew It'". Palm Beach Post.
  6. ^ a b Ferris, Kevin (July 13, 2007). "She Works to Honor Disabled Vets". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  7. ^ Braun, Bob (May 28, 2007). "A Public Tribute to War's Disabled". Newark Star-Ledger.
  8. ^ Wilborn, Thom (May 2, 2013). "Architect of Modern DAV Retires". DAV News. Archived from the original on April 20, 2014. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  9. ^ Committee on Energy and Natural Resources 2007, p. 1.
  10. ^ National Park Service 2005, p. 1—8.
  11. ^ "Obama: 'Heaven and earth' must be moved to help disabled veterans". The Washington Post. October 5, 2014.
  12. ^ National Capital Planning Commission 2010, p. 15.
  13. ^ "Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program". Disabled American Veterans. 2021. Retrieved July 23, 2021.
  14. ^ . Disabled American Veterans. 2021 Retrieved July 23, 2021. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Bierma, Nathan (July 14, 2004). "Veterans' health-care site in transition". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 2, 2016.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by