Robert J. Brown
Businessman, Philanthropist, and Special Assistant to President
Calling Robert J. Brown a businessman and philanthropist may be technically accurate, yet it is woefully insufficient, for the lives of millions worldwide have been touched by his commitment to service.
A native of High Point, Brown began his career in 1956 as a police officer, later becoming a Special Agent with the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
In 1960 he founded B&C International Inc., a public relations, marketing and consulting firm where he is still Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
Over the years, the company has developed an international clientele which includes many on the Fortune 500 list. As he was capitalizing on opportunities to grow his business, he realized he also had a responsibility to fight for equal opportunities for all African-Americans. Becoming involved in the civil rights movement, he worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., helping raise substantial funds for the movement and participating in protests.
“I was thrown in jail in High Point during the civil rights movement,” he recalls. “It was the same jail I used to put people in for crimes.” Through the challenges, he relied on his faith for stability and guidance. “I’d say my faith is what makes me tick the most, and knowing that I am here to walk in the path of God,” he says. In 1968, Brown took a leave of absence from his company to serve as a Special Assistant to President Richard Nixon during Nixon’s first term, returning to B&C Associates in 1973.
During his career, Brown enjoyed traveling frequently to South Africa, though he was increasingly troubled by the shortage of books and the impact that had on children. A strong believer in the value of education, he created the South Africa BookSmart Foundation in 1993, dedicated to helping children who had never owned a book or visited a library.
“My grandmother was the greatest inspiration in my life,” he says. “And she always told me that at the end of the day, all that matters is how much good can you do, not how much money you have.”
The non-profit has a come a long way from its days as a collection point in the basement of the B&C offices. Now renamed the International BookSmart Foundation, it ships books and school supplies to Kenya, Liberia and other African countries, in addition to South Africa. Thus far, Brown’s creation has shipped more than five million books to more than 300 schools and libraries, opening new worlds and new opportunities for children.
A graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Virginia Union University, Brown is the recipient of ten honorary doctorate degrees and six national achievement awards. Brown continues to serve on numerous business, education and community boards. But he is not looking to retirement. “I am going to keep working as long as the good Lord allows me to,” Brown says.
Biography written by Carter B. Gregory