Rowland C.W. Brown | 1923-2013: Businessman aided school desegregation
A former business executive who helped lead the desegregation of Columbus schools in the 1970s has died.
Rowland C.W. Brown, 89, died of cancer on Sept. 23. Brown was chief executive at Buckeye International Inc. and served as president of the Online Computer Library Center, but a daughter said he was most proud of his work on a committee that oversaw school integration in Columbus.
As president of the Metropolitan Columbus School Committee, Brown helped tackle the logistics of integrated busing and advocated changes in school-funding formulas based on property taxes and local levies, according to Dispatch archives.
The 20-member committee announced its formation in January 1977 as an effort to keep the “ Columbus school desegregation issue cool,” according to a 1977 article.
“He came to Columbus, and he just saw opportunities to be involved, and it was probably a small-enough city that you could really make a difference,” said daughter Kathy Brown.
“He loved Columbus.”
The former World War II Marine Corps fighter pilot and Harvard Law School graduate led Buckeye International before it was acquired by Worthington Industries Inc. in 1980.
He retired from the manufacturer and became president of OCLC, which he helped expand outside the U.S. during an eight-year tenure, said Phil Schieber, OCLC’s director of corporate communications.
While at Buckeye International, Brown asked his employer’s permission to become the face of the committee that wanted to see Columbus schools desegregated.
Kathy Brown said her father was threatened for that work, which ultimately inspired her to pursue a career as a community organizer for affordable housing in Boston.
“If you want to solve a community problem, businesses are an important component,” she said.
Brown also served as an Ohio Dominican University trustee, president of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, and a member of the Ohio Arts Council.
He was part of an effort to save the Ohio Theatre, Kathy Brown said.
“Anything he set out to do, he succeeded at,” said daughter Stephanie Kugelman.
“He talked the talk and walked the walk.”
A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Nov. 10 at First Community Church, 1320 Cambridge Blvd. in Upper Arlington.
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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