Marie Faulkner Brown, 89

Community activist Marie Faulkner Brown, who helped black-owned businesses, dies at 89

Marie Faulkner Brown
Marie Faulkner Brown
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald Staff

Marie Faulkner Brown’s many endeavors were as different as could be.

She started her own Cub Scout Pack and Girl Scout Troop for her children. She founded the first full-service travel agency in Liberty City. She started the first integrated Congregational Church in South Florida, the Church of The Open Door. She created the Black Register, a phone book that listed local African-American-owned businesses.

“None ever generated revenue,” said her son Dr. John O. Brown, Jr., “but they helped a lot of people.”

After more than half a century of giving to the community and supporting those in need, Faulkner Brown has died at 89. She passed away in her North Miami Beach home on April 2, one day before her 90th birthday.

Born in Atlanta in 1924, Faulkner Brown had a giving nature and uplifting spirit traced back to her upbringing. Her father, a revered minister and renowned folklorist, and her mother, a housewife who was the glue that held the social life together, instilled in her a sense of compassion and willingness to help others.

In 1941, Faulkner Brown enrolled at Fisk University in Nashville to study physical education. She left school two years later to marry John O. Brown, Sr. After following her husband to the University of Wisconsin and back to Nashville where their first child, John, was born, the couple moved to Miami in 1955.

While her husband started a private practice in Overtown as the first black ophthalmologist in the southeastern United States and was involved with the NAACP and CORE, Faulkner Brown kept busy, too.

In 1973, already the mother of four, she earned her degree in liberal arts from the University of Wisconsin while finishing her studies at the University of Miami. With Miami still segregated, Faulkner Brown noticed a lack of organizations for black children to get involved in.

“So she started her own,” said her son. From then on, dozens of neighborhood children and her own had a Cub Scout Pack and Girl Scout Troop.

Faulkner Brown’s next mission was to support Liberty City’s black-owned business. That’s when the Black Register was born.

“The idea behind that was to keep the monies in the community,” her son said. After noticing that the money circulating in the black community would often go elsewhere, Faulkner Brown put together a phone book, published annually, that listed existing African-American businesses and gave them an opportunity to advertise.

Most causes Faulkner Brown took up came about from a need, said her son. When she realized, for instance, how difficult it was for African-Americans to travel at the time, she founded a travel agency called Gala Travel, named after her late daughter.

“It was very difficult for people to arrange these [trips],” said her son. “Even cruise ships were segregated.”

As was often the case, turning a profit was not very high on Faulkner Brown’s list of priorities. Making a difference in people’s lives was, however.

“She would help them pay for the trip if they couldn’t afford it,” her son, John said.

“That’s what she stood for: doing good for others,” he said.

Beyond helping her community, Faulkner Brown kept her family together.

When two of her sons, Lawrence and William, died only a few months apart and her daughter Gala succumbed to colon cancer only 29 days after being diagnosed, Faulkner Brown cared for her deeply depressed husband for 11 years. “My mom didn’t miss a stride,” her son said. “She supported him. She was the pillar of the fort.”

In addition to her son Dr. John O. Brown, Jr., Faulkner Brown is survived by six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of The Open Door, 6001 NW Eighth Ave. in Miami. Range Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

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