Guide to the Homer S. Brown Papers, 1918-1977 AIS.1978.08

ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

Repository
ULS Archives & Special Collections
Title
Homer S. Brown Papers
Creator
Brown, Homer S., 1896-1977
Collection Number
AIS.1978.08
Date
1918-1977
Extent
6.25 linear feet (10 boxes)
Abstract
Homer S. Brown became a member of the Allegheny County Bar Association in 1923. He was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1934 and became the first African-American appointed to the Pittsburgh Board of Education (1943), and elected (1949) as Allegheny County Judge. He served as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County from 1956 to 1975. The Papers of Homer S. Brown consist of biographical material, correspondence from his political and judicial career, photographs, and articles and speeches written by Brown.

Preferred Citation

Homer S. Brown Papers, 1918-1977, AIS.1978.08, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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Biography

Homer Sylvester Brown, born in Huntington, WV, on September 23, 1896, was educated at Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA, and received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1923. In his lifetime Judge Brown also received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Lincoln University, Virginia Union University, University of Pittsburgh, and Virginia State College.

Brown became a member of the Allegheny County Bar Association on October 26, 1923, and in 1934 he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. During Brown's tenure in the House (1935-1950) he authored the State Fair Employment Practices Act. In 1943 he was voted the most able member of the House by the Capital News Correspondents' Association.

In 1943 Brown was the first African-American appointed to the Pittsburgh Board of Education, and in 1949 he became the first African-American to hold the position of Allegheny County Judge. In 1956 he was elected to the Court of Common Pleas and remained until 1975 when poor health forced his retirement. On the bench Brown was best known for his 1968 decision that the City of Pittsburgh's tax on hospitals, known as the "sick tax", was unconstitutional, a decision upheld by higher courts. Another historic decision came in 1973 when he ruled that prayers could be offered at graduation ceremonies. This decision was upheld by the United State Supreme Court.

Brown also served many private organizations, most notably as first President of the Pittsburgh Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons; the Centre Avenue (Pittsburgh) YMCA, where he chaired the Board of Directors; and the Board of Trustees of Virginia Union University. He also served on the White House Commission on Education (1955) and the Governor's [PA] Committee on Education (1960). Judge Brown died at his home in Pittsburgh on May 22, 1977.

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Scope and Content Notes

The papers of Homer S. Brown contain materials documenting his legal and political career. Types of materials include correspondence, photographs, articles written by Brown, biographies and interview transcriptions, newspaper clippings about Brown's achievements,; newspaper clippings about his wife, Wilhelmina Byrd Brown, and her achievements; and twenty-three bound volumes of photocopies of his papers held by Virginia Union University.

The papers of Homer S. Brown are divided into nine series, more information about the individual series is available below in the contents list.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections, March 20, 1990

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
Website: library.pitt.edu/archives-special-collections
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
Contact Us: www.library.pitt.edu/ask-archivist

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright

Permission for publication is given on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Acquisition Information

This collection was a gift to the Archives Service Center from Wilhelmina Byrd Brown in 1978 and 1980.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by John Thompson on March 20, 1990.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Anna Maria Mihalega on September 20, 2000. Information about the collection title and the controlled access terms was extracted from the MARC record in the University of Pittsburgh catalog Voyager ID number: 1415522

Existence and Location of Originals

Series I of the Papers of Homer S. Brown contains a copy of the transcription of an interview conducted as part of the Pittsburgh Renaissance Oral History Project. A recording of this interview can be found in AIS.1973.24. Series IX of the Papers of Homer S. Brown are photocopies of original papers that are on deposit at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Pittsburgh Branch.
  • Pennsylvania. Court of Common Pleas (Allegheny County).
  • Pennsylvania. General Assembly. House of Representatives.
  • Virginia Union University (Richmond, Va.).
  • White House Conference on Education (1955 : Washington, D.C.).

Genre(s)

  • Legislators

Personal Name(s)

  • Brown, Homer S., 1896-1977
  • Brown, Wilhelmina Byrd
  • Marshall, Thurgood, 1908-1993 -- Correspondence

Subject(s)

  • African American judges -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • African American lawyers -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • African American legislators -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Pennsylvania
  • African Americans -- Employment -- Law and legislation -- Pennsylvania
  • Personal papers
  • Politics
  • Social action

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Previous Citation

Homer S. Brown Papers, 1918-1977, AIS.1978.08, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

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Collection Inventory

Series  I. Biographical Materials c1930-1976 

Scope and Content Notes

This series contains five brief biographies about Homer S. Brown as well as a transcript of an interview with Brown conducted by Lawrence Howard and David Kurtzman for the Pittsburgh Renaissance Oral History Project on October 25, 1972.

  BoxFolder
Biographical Sketches and Career Highlights, c1930-1976 11
  Folder
Interview of Judge Homer S. Brown by Lawrence Howard and David Kurtzman for the Pittsburgh Renaissance Project, October 25, 1972 1a

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Series  II. Correspondence 

Scope and Content Notes

Correspondence consists mostly of letters of congratulations for various elections and appointments as well as letters of support for Brown and his legislative decisions. Early correspondence (1919) deals with the founding of the American Legion and the role of the Black veteran in that organization. Some correspondence written during Brown's tenure as legislator (1935-1950) also concerns civil rights legislation.

Section: Incoming, 1918-1976 (not all inclusive dates are represented) 

  Folder
Subject: Black Veteran's of the First World War, 1918-1919 2
  Folder
Re: Predominately congragulatory letters on election to the General Assembly, 1934-1935 3
  Folder
Outgoing, 1919-1963 (not all inclusive dates are represented) 18-20

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Series  III. Personal Memorabilia 

Scope and Content Notes

Personal memorabilia includes articles and speeches written by Brown, newspaper clippings about Brown's career, newspaper clippings about Pennsylvania politics and civil rights, and certificates and awards presented to Brown. This series contains material related to the Barr-Brown Senatorial Scholarship Committee and the Governor's Committee on Education.

  BoxFolder
Magazine articles by Homer S. Brown 221
 1. "Education, The Architect of Tomorrow," Pennsylvania School Journal, February, 1956 "Education, The Architect of Tomorrow,"
 2. "Financing Public Education," The Pittsburgh Teachers Bulletin, September, 1944 "Financing Public Education,"
 3. "Lynch Talk In Pennsylvania Court," American League Against War and Fascism, Pittsburgh Committee, Bulletin, September, 1936 "Lynch Talk In Pennsylvania Court," American League Against War and Fascism, Pittsburgh Committee,
  Folder
Speeches by Homer S. Brown 22
 1. "The Negro in Allegheny County in 1942," 1942 Online
 2. "The Negro and the Changing Functions of Our Government," (incomplete) undated Online
 3. "The Negro and His Struggle for Democracy," c1941-1945 Online
 4. Samuel Watson Case, 1936 Online
 5. "The Hon. Homer S. Brown Before the General Assembly of Pennsylvania," on Freedom and 'I am An American Day,' May, 19, 1941 Online
 6. "Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Platform Guests, Landies and Gentlemen," (educational program in Mississippi), undated Online
 7. "Presentation of Flag to the Honorable Homer S. Brown, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania," 1963 Online
 8. KDKA Radio address on the Centre Avenue Branch of the YMCA, December 20, 1936 Online
 9. Remarks prior to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelts visit to Pittsburgh to address the "Youth in Democracy" Rally at the Syria Mosque on September 4th, 1941, September 1, 1941 Online
 10. "UNESCO -- Its Fight Against Ignorance," Before the Foreign Policy Association, in the Stephen Foster Memorial Hall, March 25, 1952 Online
 11. "Education, The Architect of Tomorrow," Address by Homer S. Brown, Before the 1955 State Convention at Harrisburg of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, December 28, 1955 Online
 12. "Celebration of Bill of Rights Day in Criminal Court," In the Courts of Oyer and Terminer, General Jail Delivery and Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania," December 12, 1957 Online
 13. "Citizenship and the [African American] Youth," for Negro Youth Day, WCAE Radio, 6 pm., January 4, 1934 Online
 14. Pittsburgh Branch NAACP at the 24th Annual National Association for the Advencement of Colored People Conference, Chicago, June 29, 1933 Online
 15. Urban Leauge of Pittsburgh, "Comparison of Camping Facilities available to Negro and White Population in Allegheny County and Evaluation of Need among Negroes," c1937 Online
 16. "Report on the First Foreign Policy Discussion Group," Foreign Policy Association and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh," Wylie Avenue Branch, Homer S. Brown (Chairmen), prepared by Frank E. Bolden, February 13-April 9, 1952 Online
 17. "A Preface to a Postwar Balance Sheet: Toward Full Employment," c1945 Online
 18. News Release, Lincoln University, "Loss of War Would Doom Negro to Race Hatred and Persecution Worse Than Slavery, President Wright of Lincoln University Says in Baccalaureate," May 11, 1942 Online
 19. News Release, Lincoln University, "Fuller Share of the Negro In American Life Would Strengthen Nation..." May 13, 1942 Online
 20. A speech before the Pennsylvania General Assembly re: the philosophical role of government in the United States, June 30, 1941 Online
 21. A speech concerning Blacks in the medical professions, housing, government assistance in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, probably given at an Urban League event, c. 1942 Online
 22. A speech at Virginia Union University (formerly Richmond Theological Institute and Wayland Seminary) regarding the founders, undated Online
 23. Remarks probably for a naturalization ceremony, undated Online
 24. Excerpt on mixed races, "from Brown America: The Story of a New Race by Edwin R. Embree," 1931 Excerpt on mixed races, "from
 25. An untitled speech, undated Online
  Folder
Notes for speeches and articles 23
 1. Outline, "Kaufmann & Baer Advertising, Fall 1924 Online
 2. Outline, "Frederick Douglas," Francis Harper League, February, 19, 1930 Online
 3. Outline, untitled, subject: Christ and the NAACP, December, 1932 Online
 4. Outline, "Perseverance," Boys Conference, April 22, 1933 Online
 5. Various Outlines, subject: Abraham Lincoln, YMCA, February 11, 1934 Online
 6. Outline, "Negro Youth Looks Ahead," Conference for Negro Youth, Toledo, Ohio, April 29, 1934 Online
 7. Outline, "The Significance of Emancipation," c1936 Online
 8. Outline, 50th Anniversary, Kay Community Club, February 6, 1936 Online
 9. Outline, "Booker T. Washington," Tuskegee Program, YMCA, April 5, 1936 Online
 10. Outline, "The Place of Negro Lawyers in the County," Law Club, Janurary, 18, 1937 Online
 11. Outline, "Father & Son Banquet," Christian Street Branch of YMCA, Philadelphia, Pa., February 24, 1937 Online
 12. Outline, "James Weldon Johnson," YMCA, Youngstown, Ohio, March 19, 1938 Online
 13. Outline, subject: issues for Black populations, Second Baptist Church, Columbus, Ohio, June 26, 1938 Online
 14. Outline, "Race Relations Sunday," Coordinating Committee, Central Baptist Church, (Pittsburgh, Pa. ?), December 9, 1938 Online
 15. Outline, 11th Anniversary of the YMCA, First Baptist Church, Roanoke, Va., February 26, 1939 Online
 16. Outline, Older Boys Conference, Ogleby Park, WVa (incomplete), Octouber 18, 1940 Online
 18. Outline, subject: Employment, Education, Health, Housing, and Voting of Black Citizens, undated Online
 17. Outline, "Security: What it means in the Post World War," c1946 Online
 19. Text, subject: Centre Avenue Branch YMCA, Pittsburgh, Pa., undated Online
 20. Outline, "Facts for American's to Consider," undated Online
 21. Text, subject: Freedom, undated Online
 22. Text, "Nature of 1790," undated Online
 23. Text, "Negro Youth in a New Social Order," undated Online
 24. Text, "Today," undated Online
 25. Text, Poem: The Son of God..., undated Online
 26. Outline, "Problems that need to be solved in the Area of Race Relationship in Pennsylvania," undated Online
 27. Outline, "Race Pride," undated Online
 28. Outline, "Securities Commission -- Industrial Board," undated Online
 29. Text, "Socrates," undated Online
 30. Outline, "What of the Government of Tomorrow," undated Online
 31. Outline, "The World Today," undated Online
 32. Note fragments -- various unidentified speeches, undated Online
  Folder
Articles about Homer S. Brown 24
  Folder
Newspaper clippings about Homer S. Brown, 1932-1941 25-30
  BoxFolder
Newspaper clippings about Homer S. Brown, 1942-1959 331-43
  BoxFolder
Newspaper clippings about Homer S. Brown, 1960-1975 444-48
  Folder
Newspaper clippings about Homer S. Brown, undated 49
  Folder
Newspaper clippings about Pennsylvania politics and civil rights 50
  Folder
Certificates and awards 51
  Folder
Conference and banquet programs 52
  Folder
Barr-Brown Senatorial Scholarship Committee Papers 53
  Folder
Governor's Committee on Education, April 1960 54
  BoxFolder
Certificates and awards 555

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Series  IV. Photographs 

Scope and Content Notes

In addition to photographs of Brown, the series contains photographs with Joseph Givens, Samuel Weiss, Paul Ford James, Georgina Brown, Vicky Corey, and Raymond Alexander at various stages in his career.

  Folder
Homer S. Brown 55
  Folder
Identified individuals 56

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Series  V. Scrapbooks 

Scope and Content Notes

These scrapbooks illustrate Homer S. Brown's career primarily through newspaper clippings. One scrapbook is dedicated to his first term as judge (1949-1957).

  BoxVolume
 1934-1976 7
  Volume
Homer S. Brown's first term as judge, 1949-1957 

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Series  VI. Documents from Homer S. Brown's Career 

Scope and Content Notes

This series includes documents from Brown's tenure in the Pennsylvania House of Representative during the 1935-1950 sessions. Of special note in material from the 1936 session is the investigation of Judge Benjamin Atlee, who insinuated that a mob lynching of an African-American defendant would have been acceptable. The 1937 session materials contain documents relating to the establishing of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. Materials related to a number of proposed House bills between 1935 and 1950 are found in this series. Series VI also contains documents relating to Brown's careers in the Allegheny County Court and the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. These documents include a copy of Brown's opinion on the Appeal of the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania whereby he ruled the City of Pittsburgh Ordinance No. 676, the "Institution and Service Privilege Tax Ordinance," invalid against charitable organizations (1969).

  Folder
Legislative Sessions, 1935 57
  Folder
Legislative Sessions, 1936 58
  Folder
Legislative Sessions, 1937 59
  Folder
Legislative Sessions, 1938, 1939 60
  Folder
Legislative Sessions, 1941, 1942 61
  Folder
Legislative Sessions, 1943 62
  Folder
Legislative Sessions, 1947, 1948, 1949 63
  BoxFolder
Allegheny County Court, 1950-1953 664
  Folder
Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, 1968, 1970 65

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Series  VII. Wilhelmina Brown (Mrs. Homer S. Brown) 

Scope and Content Notes

This series consists of correspondence (1934-1977), newspaper clippings about Mrs. Brown (1942-1959), photocopies of awards, and programs from meetings Mrs. Brown attended.

  Folder
Correspondence, 1934-1977 (not all inclusive dates are represented) 66
  Folder
Newspaper clippings about Wilhelmina Brown 1942-1959 67
  Folder
Awards given to Wilhelmina Brown (photocopies) 68
  Folder
Programs 69

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Series  VIII. Pamphlets on Racism 

Scope and Content Notes

This Series contains various pamphlets on racism collected by Brown between 1945-1950.

  Folder
Pamphlets on Racism, undated 70

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Series  IX. Collected Papers of Homer S. Brown 

Scope and Content Notes

The Collected Papers of Homer S. Brown are twenty-three volumes of photocopies of material on deposit at Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA. Material in these volumes were collected and compiled by Wilhemina Byrd Brown and Lawrence C. Howard. Generally, these volumes contain photocopies of Brown's correspondence, newspaper clippings, speeches, and court opinions. The volumes also contain copies of The Legislative Record from Brown's tenure in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as well as contain newspaper clippings regarding his son Byrd Brown, a noted Pittsburgh attorney. These volumes include information on the formation of the American Legion, the investigation of Judge Benjamin Atlee, lynchings in the southern states of America, and African American rights in education, hospitals and state unions. Of particular interest are materials related to Brown's fight against Governor Earle's bill to change the Pennsylvania Grand Jury System in 1938 (Vol. 4); the "Report of Legislative Committee Appointed Pursuant to Resolution No. 27, Serial 53 of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, " 1939, regarding charges of discrimination against the City of Pittsburgh in hiring of African-Americans as teachers (Vol. 5); and a number of judicial opinions written by Judge Homer S. Brown between 1961-1974 (vols. 20-23).

  BoxVolume
 1919-1943, 1972 81-8
  BoxVolume
 1946 99
  Volume
 1941-1942 10
  Volume
 1947-1949 11
  Volume
 1949-1950 12-13
  Volume
 1936-1938, 1951-1952 14
  Volume
 1938-1941, 1943, 1957, 1967-1968 15
  Volume
 1963-1969 16
  BoxVolume
 1967-1973 1017
  Volume
 1936-1941, 1951-1953, 1959-1969 18
  Volume
 1941-1949, 1977 19
  Volume
 1961-1974 20
  Volume
 1969-1974 21-22
  Volume
 1965-1970 23

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