Darrell Brown, a former Little Rock lawyer, has died. He is most famous, probably, as a walk-on Razorback football player in 1965. That made him the first black Razorback, a rough experience memorably recounted in this 2011 article on Yahoo Sports.
He was recognized at a Razorback football game in 2011 for his trailblazing. He was one of only 12 blacks on the UA campus as a student that fall. His experience then, and in law school, was no picnic and became a chapter in a larger story sometimes told about racism at the UA.
I heard about Brown’s death from local lawyers; it was also reported on-line by Yahoo’s Dan Wentzel, who’d written about Brown before. Wentzel thinks Brown may have been the first black collegiate football player in the South Wentzel wrote:
Darrell faced relentless opposition within the program, mostly from a coaching staff that knew better than to ban him but did everything they could to run him off. He was literally used as a tackling dummy on kickoff drills. No matter what they threw at him, he refused to quit and gutted it out to play on the JV.
An injury ended his playing days but not his impact on America. He graduated from UA, then its law school. He became a pioneering attorney in Little Rock, a civil rights leader and a tremendous father and community inspiration across the state.
In 2011, Arkansas honored him as a trailblazer at halftime of a Razorbacks game.
I was fortunate enough to meet Darrell through my friend Rus Bradburd, the great author. I wrote about Darrell in 2011.
I doubt I ever have or ever will meet a man tougher than Darrell Brown.
What a life lived. What a story he left behind.
Judge Wendell Griffen, among those who told me about Brown’s death, noted that he’d served early in his career as a federal magistrate in the Panama Canal Zone and spent years in private practice in Little Rock. He’d been living in recent years in his hometown of Horatio. Brown was disbarred in 2007. Griffen commented:
Darrell Brown was a wonderful soul, had an excellent mind, and demonstrated more courage than anyone else I ever encountered in all my years as a student (both undergraduate and law) at the University of Arkansas.
The UA took notice of Brown’s death in a news release early in the evening and athletic director Jeff Long sent out a Tweet on it.
FOOTNOTE: Darrell Brown served as a special prosecutor in one of the most notorious criminal investigations ever in Pulaski County, arising out of then-Sheriff Tommy Robinson’s fanciful notions about the slaying of Alice McArthur, wife of a local lawyer.