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May 11, 2015

William Neal Brown when he first began working as social worker in New Jersey and (right) a photo of Brown in later life by Rayon Richards.

Dr. William Neal Brown has been nominated for inclusion in the New Jersey Hall of Fame for the year 2015. He is exactly the kind of person that the Hall of Fame should recognize, and Rutgers School of Social Work is enlisting your aid in making this a reality. Once you've read this description of his manyaccomplishments, please go to the New Jersey Hall of Fame website ( and vote for Dr. Brown.

Dr. William Neal Brown was a distinguished New Jerseyan who achieved great things in his long life. An African American born in Warrenton, Georgia, in 1919, his life was emblematic of the struggle of a people against racism and oppression. His life stretched from a time when blacks suffered greatly from a racism that deadened the spirit and derailed aspirations to the inauguration of Barack Obama, this country's first African American president. The grandson of a slave, Dr. Brown graduated from Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, paying his own way through odd jobs and thrift. Shocked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Brown enlisted in the Army and was recruited to be a Tuskegee Airman. He ended his military career as a captain. After the war he earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. and became the first African American professor hired by Rutgers University. For 33 years he worked in the School of Social Work, rising from the rank of assistant to full professor. He eventually retired as Professor Emeritus. A highlight of his career was his debate with Malcolm X in Newark on November 3, 1961, before a large audience, a debate where he more than held his own in front of an audience that was decidedly in Malcolm X's corner. Entitled "Separation or Desegregation," the debate was representative of Malcolm X's position on race relations before his split from the BlackMuslims.

Dr. Brown was a leader in the field of social work; his paper on alienated youth was translated into 39 languages. Additionally, he was influential in bringing to the forefront the plight of low income and minority people. A consultant to many groups, he was known for his carefully prepared and thoughtful speeches, presentations, and lectures. His interests were wide ranging and involved work with police, teachers, and especially veterans. His work took him to other universities as a visiting professor and his influence was made at Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Wisconsin, among others, as well as Hebrew University. Dr. Brown died peacefully in his home on April 17, 2009, after a lifetime of achievements. Dr. Brown's papers and memorabilia now reside at the Rutgers Oral History Archives, Columbia University, the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress, and the National HistoricTuskegee Airmen Site at Tuskegee, Alabama. Tributes to William Neal Brown's life include the William Neal Brown Scholarship Fund and the Professor William Neal Brown Annual Endowed Lecture series at Rutgers University.

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