P S Brown Biography & Facts
Jesse LeRoy Brown (October 13, 1926 – December 4, 1950) was a United States Navy officer. He was the first African-American aviator to complete the United States Navy's basic flight training program; a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross; and the first African-American naval officer killed in the Korean War.
Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to an impoverished family, Brown was avidly interested in aircraft from a young age. He graduated as salutatorian of his high school, notwithstanding its racial segregation, and later earned a degree from the Ohio State University. Brown enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1946, becoming a midshipman. Brown earned his pilot wings on October 21, 1948 amid a flurry of press coverage; in January 1949 he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Leyte.
At the outset of the Korean War, Leyte was ordered to the Korean Peninsula, arriving in October 1950. During the Korean War, VF-32 flew F4U-4 Corsair fighters in support of United Nations forces. Brown, an ensign, had already flown 20 combat missions when his Corsair came under fire and crashed on a remote mountaintop on December 4, 1950, while supporting ground troops at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Brown died of his wounds despite the efforts of his wingman, Thomas J. Hudner Jr., who intentionally crashed his own aircraft nearby in a rescue attempt, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Brown's life in the segregated and desegregated U.S. military has been memorialized in books and film, including the 2022 film Devotion. The frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor.
Early life and education
Brown was born on 13 October 1926 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was one of six children born to Julia Lindsey Brown, a schoolteacher, and John Brown, a grocery warehouse worker. He had four brothers, Marvin, William, Fletcher, and Lura, as well as an older sister known as Johnny. Brown's ancestry was African American, Chickasaw, and Choctaw. The family lived in a house without central heating or indoor plumbing so they relied on a fireplace for warmth. As a child, Jesse's brother William fell into this fireplace and was severely burned.At the beginning of the Great Depression, John Brown lost his job and relocated the family to Palmer's Crossing, 10 miles (16 km) from Hattiesburg, where he worked at a turpentine factory until he was laid off in 1938. John Brown moved the family to Lux, Mississippi, where he worked as a sharecropper on a farm. During this time, Jesse Brown shared a bed with his brothers (as was common among many families) and attended a one-room school 3 miles (4.8 km) away. His parents were very strict about school attendance and homework, and Jesse Brown walked to school every day. The Browns also were committed Baptists and Jesse, William, and Julia Brown sang in the church choir. In his spare time, Brown also worked in the fields of the farm harvesting corn and cotton.When Brown was six years old, his father took him to an air show. Brown gained an intense interest in flying from this experience, and afterward, was attracted to a dirt airfield near his home, which he visited frequently in spite of being chased away by a local mechanic.At the age of thirteen, Brown took a job as a paperboy for the Pittsburgh Courier, a black press paper, and developed a desire to pilot while reading in the newspaper about African-American aviators of the time including C. Alfred Anderson, Eugine Jacques Bullard, and Bessie Coleman. He also became an avid reader of Popular Aviation and the Chicago Defender, which he later said heavily influenced his desire to fly naval aircraft. In his childhood he was described as "serious, witty, unassuming, and very intelligent." In 1937, he wrote a letter to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in which he complained of the injustice of African-American pilots being kept out of the U.S. Army Air Corps, to which the White House responded with a letter saying that it appreciated the viewpoint.Because the schools closer to his family were of lower quality, in 1939, Brown lived with his aunt and attended the segregated Eureka High School in Hattiesburg. He was a member of the basketball, football, and track and field teams and he was an excellent student, graduating as the salutatorian in 1944
. During this time, Brown met his future wife, Daisy Pearl Nix.Following graduation, Brown sought to enroll in a college outside of the South. His principal, Nathaniel Burger, advised he attend an all-black college, as his brother Marvin Brown had done. But he enrolled at Ohio State University as his childhood role model, Jesse Owens, had done. Burger told Brown that only seven African Americans had graduated from the university that year, but Brown was determined to enroll, believing that he could compete well with white students.Brown took several side jobs to save money for college, including waiting tables at the Holmes Club, a saloon for white U.S. Army soldiers. In this job, Brown was frequently the target of racist vitriol and abuse, but he persevered, earning $600 to pay for college. In the autumn of 1944, Brown left Mississippi on a segregated train for Columbus, Ohio, where he started at Ohio State.Brown moved into an on-campus boarding house at 61 East Eleventh Avenue in the primarily black neighborhood of the University District in Columbus. He majored in architectural engineering. Brown attempted several times to apply to the school's aviation program, but was denied because of his race. Brown joined the track and field team as well as the wrestling team, but soon dropped both for financial reasons. He took a job as a janitor at a local Lazarus department store and was hired by the Pennsylvania Railroad to load boxcars from 15:30 to midnight each day. In spite of this, he maintained top grades in his classes.Although facing difficulties with academics and the institutional segregation in the city, Brown found that most of his fellow students were friendly toward him. Brown rarely returned to Mississippi during the school year, but in the summers he worked at Barnes Cleaners (dry cleaner) owned by Milton L Barnes Sr. in Hattiesburg to help pay for his classes.During his second year in college, Brown learned of the V-5 Aviation Cadet Training Program being conducted by the U.S. Navy to commission naval aviation pilots. This program operated at 52 colleges, none of which was a historically black college, so only students such as Brown, who attended integrated colleges, were eligible. In spite of resistance from recruiters, Brown passed the entrance exams.Brown enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 8 July 1946 and was admitted to the aviation program, becoming a Seaman Apprentice in the U.S. Navy and a member of the school's Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program. A $50 monthly stipend allowed him to quit his jobs and concentrate on his studies; he completed his architectur.... Discover the P S Brown popular books. Find the top 100 most popular P S Brown books.