John Brown Sr - Historical Resources - Archives Office
The Founding Family
John Brown Sr. or John Brown of Arkansas
A 17-year-old young man stooped over a rock with a sledge hammer, the pounding reverberating in his ears. From the time he was 11 years old, family circumstances had forced him to work, leaving his education behind.
One rainy spring evening, the youth stopped to eat at a Rogers, Ark. cafe with a group of his buddies known as the "Lime Kiln Gang." The persistent thumping of a drumbeat aroused the curiosity of the gang, who came out to jest at the lone, wet musician. But the young man was mesmerized by the sound and followed the drummer to a Salvation Army service.
It was there that John E. Brown Sr. committed his life to Christ. Soon, Brown was not only attending the services, but also preaching at them. The Salvation Army group moved on, but Brown continued to spread the gospel. He became nationally known as "Brother Brown" and fully devoted his time to evangelism as an eloquent and convincing preacher.
Amidst all of his successes, Brown never forgot his earlier years, and he desired to provide youth educational opportunities that he had been denied. He began to build on his dream of a school where financially disadvantaged young people could attend tuition free.
"I call them rich boys and girls, for while they haven't the money to educate themselves, they have what young people of ample means sometimes lack — the will and ambition to work and strive and look forward and climb," Brown once said.
With that in mind, the evangelist, his wife Juanita and their family settled in Siloam Springs, Ark. in 1919 where Brown established the Southwestern Collegiate Institute on their property. A year later the name was changed to John E. Brown College and then later to John Brown University.
Years have passed since the day that those first 70 students and 10 professors walked through the doors of the college, laying a firm foundation for future students. Yet the founder's words still serve to inspire.
"The future has for each of us greater privilege, greater opportunity, greater responsibility and greater challenge," Brown said.
What Brown could not have known that rainy day in 1876 when he followed the beat of a drum is irrefutable now. He was destined to lay a foundation of education and faith for the brighter futures of thousands.