Earle Palmer Brown, a legend in the D.C. marketing community, died at the age of 92. Although Brown downplayed his legacy to the local ad and PR community, at one time, there were at least a dozen D.C. agencies started by people who worked at Earle Palmer Brown.
One former employee, Jim Walczy, now owner of Walczy+Hamilton Advertising, noted, “I’m sure 90% of the Washington advertising community would say in truth – we owe an awful lot to the genius and heart of Earle Palmer Brown for the doors he opened and the opportunities he gave us when we were all starting out.”
Bill Rolle, a longtime friend and colleague, emailed Capitol Communicator that “it’s a sad day for each of us to learn of the end of an era. We all owed Earle much and will remember him fondly. He was our mentor and our leader.”
Brown founded his public relations and advertising agency in 1952. Starting in a one-room office in the Statler Hilton in D.C., his company, Earle Palmer Brown, became a major advertising company in this region for 50 years. The company, led by Earle Brown and then his son, Jeb Brown, grew, at one point, well beyond the D.C. area to include offices in a number of cities. In 2002, the firm was bought by Arnold and, subsequently, the changing business climate resulted in its closure.
Brown’s involvement in the community went far beyond marketing and included working to establish the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville (and the picture above was taken at a ceremony honoring his work to establish the Universities at Shady Grove).
Brown was born in 1922 in Manhasset, Long Island, NY. He graduated from Freeport High School, and Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, where he was awarded the University’s departmental scholarship in journalism.
During World War II, Brown served as a PT boat commander, seeing action in the South Pacific, New Guinea, Philippine Islands and Borneo. He left the Navy as a Lieutenant (senior grade), and was awarded the Bronze Star (with combat V) and five battle stars.
Following WWII, he served in the U.S. Navy’s Office of Public Information. After separation from the Navy, he was a reporter on the Richmond News-Leader, associate editor of Time, Inc.’s Architectural Forum and executive secretary of the Society of Industrial Realtors.
An Eagle Scout in his youth, Brown later served as chairman of the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts. He was awarded the Silver Beaver for service in scouting and the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. In 1990 he was named the Council’s Citizen of the Year.
During his long career, he lectured on advertising, public relations and marketing at the University of Maryland, American University, University of Arizona, Boston University, George Washington University and Washington and Lee University.
Brown also served as chairman of the Middle Atlantic Council of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and, in 1981, was awarded the American Advertising Federation’s Silver Medal. He also served as president of the National Federation of Advertising Agencies. In 1992, he was awarded the Washington Business Hall of Fame honor by Washingtonian Magazine, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Junior Achievement.
He was past chairman of the Maryland State Chamber of Commerce and was selected as the recipient of its 1995 Public Service Award. Brown also served as a consultant to two U.S. senators and six representatives from Maryland.
He was president of Congressional Country Club in 1994 and 1995, of Rosecroft Raceway from 1969 to 1982, and of the Harness Tracks of America in 1978 and 1979. He was one of the founders of the Washington Tennis Patrons Foundation and was a top-10 tennis player in the Middle Atlantic region during the 1950s.
In 1999, he completed two five-year terms on the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland’s 13-campus system. As Regent, he was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Universities at Shady Grove. Prior to serving on the Board of Regents, he served as a trustee of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
In 1999, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Washington & Lee University and was elected to the Washington Public Relations Society Hall of Fame.
Brown also was a director of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and chaired its Maryland State PAC. He served on the Communications Advisory Board of Washington & Lee and the editorial advisory board of Trusteeship Magazine, published by the Association of Governing boards of Universities and Colleges. For 12 years he wrote a weekly column on current events and politics for the suburban Maryland Gazette Papers.
At the time of his death, he resided in Potomac with his wife, Joyce Baker Brown, and their two boxers, Tori and Lindi.