When thinking about Black History Month, the focus typically falls on prominent figures including Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson and many others, past and present. While we are grateful to these champions for change and the impact they made on our history, Jefferson City Schools has chosen to highlight, celebrate, and acknowledge African-Americans who have made significant contributions to our school system and community. In today’s edition, we are honored to feature Mrs. Doris Brown.
Passionate, caring, and committed are only a few words that describe Mrs. Doris Brown, one of the first African-Americans to teach in Jefferson City Schools. Born in Newnan, Georgia, the tenth of fifteen children, and raised in Anniston, Alabama, Mrs. Brown did not begin first grade until the age of seven. Though she had a late start, she is the only one of her siblings to graduate from college. Mrs. Brown received a degree in Home Economics from Miles College, a private historically black liberal arts college in Fairfield, Alabama. She later studied at two other historically black colleges, Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, GA and Paine College in Augusta, GA, where she took general education courses to obtain her certification in elementary education. The final stop on her post-secondary education journey was at the University of Georgia in Athens where she took additional courses in Vocational Home Economics.
At a young age, Mrs. Brown worked for three dollars per week taking care of a family and their young children. It is this work, along with the encouragement of her very ill mother, that inspired her to become an educator. She was a devoted educator for thirty-eight years. Mrs. Brown began her teaching career in 1959 at her high school alma mater before moving to Jefferson in 1963 with her late husband, James Brown, an educator and coach. Both were teachers at Bryan Elementary and High School until it was closed due to integration in 1970. At that time, Mrs. Brown was placed at Jefferson Elementary School where she spent the next 27 years teaching science to fifth grade students.
When asked about her biggest challenge as an educator, Mrs. Brown states that, “moving from one school to another in 1970 posed great challenges because of the different environment and having to teach a different subject.” Though the environment was different, she felt that being able to listen, communicate, and express her feelings in a positive way made a difference in how she dealt with the challenges she faced in this new setting. Mrs. Brown believes that she worked well with and was treated with great respect by administrators, fellow teachers and students, “because I learned that even when people respond to you in a negative way, you are in control of your response. Tone of voice matters.” Former principal of Jefferson Elementary, Mr. Jim Hix, states, “My first impression of Doris is that she was a quiet, dedicated leader in the classroom. Doris was a wonderful member of my faculty who I could always depend on to perform at a high level. She was a true professional, and I am very fortunate to have known and worked with her.”
Mrs. Brown herself states that she was a strict disciplinarian. That point is echoed in a statement by former student Steven Hix who says, “Every fourth-grade student at Jefferson Elementary became keenly aware of Mrs. Brown’s reputation as a strict disciplinarian. The fifth-grade students made sure to pass along the rumors that punishments were meted out with sticks of candy.” At that time in education, teachers were allowed to use paddling as a form of punishment. Mrs. Brown’s paddle was known to all students as, “The Candy Stick.”
As one of the first black teachers in Jefferson City Schools, she quickly found that she was able to teach all students, not just minority students. “If a student did not understand something, I wanted them to feel comfortable in coming to me.” So, she made sure that every student in her class knew that she cared about them and that she was always available to listen to their needs and concerns. She always encouraged them to be and do their best in whatever work they chose to do. Steven also states, “Mrs. Brown was a complete teacher who provided a safe and nurturing learning environment for generations of Jefferson students in their last year of elementary school. She had an innate ability to know the what and when of every student’s needs and how to meet those needs.” Pamela Leigh Anderson, another former student states, “Mrs. Brown taught more than science. She taught us about life. She taught us how to live and be successful.” Mrs. Brown’s proudest moments as an educator have come when she hears or finds that former students are happy, doing well in their lives, and are giving back to their community.
While Mrs. Brown retired from teaching in 1997, she continues her work as an advocate for children and gives back to the Jefferson community by serving as a Board Member for both the Jackson County Boys and Girls Club and Jackson County Community Outreach. She is also the oldest living member of her church, Paradise A.M.E. where she continues to be an active member in church programs. Mrs. Brown loves children and makes it her mission to motivate them to read and to learn something new every day. She states that while she has been through a lot, she is thankful for her time working as a teacher in Jefferson City Schools. She feels that she overcame all challenges through hard work, perseverance, and standing firm in her beliefs. Something we should all take note of.
Mrs. Brown and her late husband raised three children, twin girls Anita and Lolita, and one son, Ellis, all of whom graduated from Jefferson City Schools. She is also the proud grandmother of four, Catera, Annabelle, Imani, and Jameson.
Jefferson City Schools salutes Mrs. Doris Brown. Because you have improved the lives of others in the school setting and in your community, we celebrate you and thank you for your commitment to education, to our school system, and to our community. The sacrifices you have made do not go unnoticed.