‘Sweet’ Charlie Brown, an iconic member of the DuSable crew that misplaced the 1954 state basketball title in controversial vogue, dies


If statues honoring the previous DuSable High School’s most revered alumni have been erected in entrance of 4900 S. Wabash Ave., “Sweet” Charlie Brown can be standing in bronze alongside Nat King Cole, Mayor Harold Washington and Sweetwater Clifton, the primary Black participant to signal a contract to play within the NBA.

Like Clifton, Brown was a basketball participant. But he was that and an entire lot extra.

Brown was a star on the DuSable crew that misplaced to Mount Vernon within the 1954 state title recreation remembered because the “most controversial” recreation in Illinois High School Association event historical past, the stellar sidekick of famous person Elgin Baylor on the Seattle University crew that completed second within the 1958 NCAA Tournament, an esteemed highschool referee, and co-founder and guiding gentle of the Windy City Senior Basketball League.

“If it all ended tomorrow I will have enjoyed more than any NBA All-Star ever did,” Brown wrote in a 2008 letter to Bill Frey, one of many multitude of shut buddies he made via the Windy City Senior League and its summer time nationwide event, the Windy City Shootout.

Brown died Friday, Aug. 26, at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, the place he was taken after a fall two days earlier at Peterson Park Health Care Center. After residing on the South Side for nearly all of his grownup life, he was taken to the middle on the North Side in late July due to extreme respiratory issues and different well being points. He was 86.

Born in Canton, Mississippi, on Feb. 24, 1936, Brown got here to Chicago earlier than he began elementary college at Betsy Ross on the South Side.

He made his first look within the public eye throughout his junior 12 months at DuSable, when he was the most effective gamers on coach Art Scher’s crew that reached the primary spherical of the 1953 state event earlier than shedding to eventual state champion Lyons and ending with a 27-3 file.

The following season Scher left to teach Sullivan. Jim Brown changed Scher at DuSable, inheriting a forged of standouts that additionally included Paxton Lumpkin, Shellie McMillon, Karl Dennis and McKinley Cowson and midyear graduates Curley Johnson and Bobby Jackson.

“We felt that we were on the verge of something great,” Brown advised the Chicago Sun-Times in 2004. “The kids took pride in the fact that they were Black and had a Black coach. A new era began in the city with Black kids beginning to dominate the game.”

Indicative of that dominance was DuSable’s regular-season showdown with Roosevelt, one other Chicago powerhouse, which had an all-white crew. Brown scored 34 factors to guide DuSable to a double-overtime victory that determined the Chicago Public League championships and would have long-term ramifications.

Seeking to develop into the primary CPL and first all-Black crew to win the state championship, unbeaten DuSable routed Bowen, Quincy and Edwardsville within the event to set the stage for the title recreation in opposition to Mount Vernon.

Not solely that, “DuSable would have been the first all-Black team in the United States to win a high school state basketball championship,” in keeping with Bruce Firchau, chairman of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and Museum.

DuSable led by 4 factors with 4 minutes to play earlier than Mount Vernon rallied to win 76-70.

Calls by referees have been an element. Three baskets by Brown on lengthy photographs have been waived off due to touring calls, and Lumpkin was known as for charging on two events after making photographs. In the ultimate three minutes, Brown, Lumpkin and Dennis fouled out.

According to longtime Sun-Times prep author Taylor Bell, “It was, by most accounts, the most controversial championship game in the history of the Illinois high school basketball tournament.”

“I hold no bitterness,” Brown later mirrored. “I learned more from that one loss than all the wins. It taught me how to deal with realities in our society and learn how to accept them. I learned how to deal with what life is all about.”

Brown went on to play school basketball on the freshman crew at Indiana — NCAA guidelines on the time prevented freshmen from enjoying varsity — and he spent the primary half of his sophomore season as a major contributor for the varsity squad earlier than leaving.

Brown was recruited by Seattle coach John Castellani and, after sitting out a season in compliance with NCAA switch guidelines, performed a robust supporting function to Baylor when the crew superior to the 1958 nationwide championship recreation earlier than shedding to Kentucky.

In the West Region championship recreation in opposition to California, Brown scored the basket that despatched the competition into additional time. With 10 seconds remaining in additional time, he scored the basket that sealed the 66-62 victory.

When Baylor left for the NBA the subsequent season, Brown grew to become the highest participant on a crew that completed with a 23-6 file. He was chosen to a number of All-America groups.

Brown was chosen by the Cincinnati Royals because the 74th general decide within the 1959 NBA draft throughout an period through which a lot of the league’s eight groups had unwritten quotas on the variety of Black gamers on their rosters.

But Brown selected to not attempt to play within the NBA. He returned to Chicago after serving within the U.S. Army and performed semipro basketball. He additionally labored as a social employee for the YMCA on the West Side, the place he was dedicated to bringing collectively members of rival gangs to resolve their variations.

In 1975, he started a second basketball profession as a referee, officiating two highschool championship video games: King’s 79-71 victory over Rockford Guilford in 1993, and in 1994 when Peoria Manual edged Carbondale 61-60. He additionally labored a number of metropolis championship contests.

Brown took nice pleasure in his work.

“I wasn’t going to let what happened to me happen to those young men,” he as soon as mirrored, wanting again on the controversial 1954 loss to Mount Vernon. “They said the officials cheated (DuSable) but I would never use that word. I say: ‘They made some mistakes.’”

Another significant chapter in Brown’s life started within the Nineteen Eighties when he was contacted by lawyer Mickey Rotman, a former Roosevelt participant who went on to develop into president of the Chicago Public High School Alumni Association. Rotman proposed he and the opposite members of the Roosevelt crew that misplaced to DuSable in 1954 maintain a reunion recreation to boost cash for each colleges.

Brown welcomed the thought. A cocktail party on the East Bank Club preceded the sport and the previous rivals bonded. The reunion recreation led to word-of-mouth pickup video games after which to the gamers’ participation in nationwide tournaments for gamers over age 50.

“We can do this locally,” Brown advised his skeptical fellow gamers.

The first Windy City Shootout was held in the summertime of 1991 and within the winter of 1995 the Windy Senior Basketball League was born. (The league was revived in 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.)

Brown performed within the league — headquartered at Washington Park with satellite tv for pc venues totally on the South Side — for nearly 20 years and till the pandemic served as its de facto commissioner.

Among the previous NBA gamers who’ve performed within the league are Ricky Green, Flynn Robinson, Mickey Johnson, Harvey Catchings and Sonny Parker. Also on the VIP record are a number of notables from different walks of life reminiscent of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and former Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine.

“We have had our lives enriched by the experiences we have had and it is all due to Charlie,” the late Barry Holt, one of many league’s founding fathers, wrote in a Windy City Shootout program piece. “Charlie touched our lives in ways we would not think were possible.”

Looking again a number of years in the past, Brown reminisced: “We began with a crew of men and now we’ve got an enormous household. I’ve gotten extra out of basketball after 50 than I presumably may have imagined.

“I used to be in the midst of the social change our nation was going via in 1954. I do know what the distinction is earlier than, throughout and after that. I’m having fun with the residuals. You don’t must be an Uncle Tom, you don’t must be a Malcom X, you don’t must be a Martin Luther King. Just be your self and discover one of the best method for the state of affairs you’re in.

“We’re all one family. Everybody has to look at it that way.”

Visitation can be Thursday from midday to 7 p.m. and Friday at 10 a.m. at Travis Funeral Home in Riverdale, adopted by funeral companies at 11 a.m. at Shekinah Chapel in Riverdale.

Brown is survived by his daughter, Rosalind, granddaughters Ryann and Grace, and grandsons Rawlin and Justin. Preceding him in dying have been his brothers Reginald, Leroy and Herb. He was divorced however he and his former spouse, Shirley, remained shut buddies till her dying.

Neil Milbert is a contract reporter who lined sports activities for the Chicago Tribune for 46 years.

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