Rest in Peace former Governor John Y. Brown Jr.
Brown was the Commonwealth’s 55th governor, taking office in 1979. During his term, his campaign pledge was “Running Government like a Business.”
He earned his own way from the age of 16 by selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners.
While attending the University of Kentucky, Brown paid his way through college making as much as $25,000 in a year as the branch manager for Encyclopedia Britannica.
In the summer of 1960, Brown passed the Kentucky bar exam and began to practice law with his father with the law firm name “Brown and Son.”
At the age of 29, he and his partner Jack C. Massey of Nashville, Tennessee purchased Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation from its founder Colonel Harland Sanders for $2 million.
In September 1983 the National Democratic Party recognized Governor Brown for his “innovative fundraising” techniques and other contributions to the party, and named him Democrat of the Year.
During the 1970s, Brown entered the professional sports arena serving as president of the American Basketball Association and owning the Kentucky Colonels with his wife. After the league was absorbed into the National Basketball Association, Brown became the owner of the Buffalo Braves and then traded that team for the Boston Celtics in 1978, before selling and running for governor of Kentucky.
Brown made a matching gift of $1 million to build the downtown Louisville YMCA. He did the same in partnership with the state of Kentucky, establishing the Sanders-Brown Research Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky, in honor of Colonel Harland Sanders and his father, John Y. Brown Sr.
Brown received a number of national and local community awards for his leadership as a businessman and a public servant, including the following:
- In July 1980 Brown received the American Academy of Achievement Award in Los Angeles, California with a citation for his “spectacular rise from businessman to governor outside of the traditional political structure.”
- He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the International Franchise Association where he was introduced as an entrepreneur before he knew how to spell it.
- He was named Father of the Year from the National Father’s Day Committee.
- He was named Speaker of the Year by the National Platform Association in Washington, D.C.
- In 1994 he was awarded CEO of the Year by NACORE.
- He was inducted into numerous hall of fames during his career, most recently in 2007 by the University of Kentucky Law School Hall of Fame as one of two honorees.
- In 2007, Brown helped open the “Muhammad Ali Center.”