A memorial service will be held on February 29, 2020 for Henry Thomas Brown of Weston at Myrtle Baptist Church, 19 Curve Street, West Newton, Massachusetts at 10 o'clock. He was the widower of Melinda C. Wells Brown who preceded him in death after 60 years of marriage in 2018. A retiree of the Polaroid Corporation, Mr. Brown passed away on February 13, 2020 at his home after a brief battle with leukemia.
Mr. Brown was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the sixth of nine children of the late Rev. Elias Brown and the late Martha Marks Gentry. He was educated in the Cincinnati public schools, graduating from Walnut Hills High School before enrolling at the University of Cincinnati. There, he was the first African-American to graduate from the School of Engineering, receiving his B.S. in 1955. The following year, he was awarded a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Henry was baptized at the New Sardis Primitive Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1956. At the time of his death, Mr. Brown had been a member of Myrtle Baptist Church of West Newton for 46 years. For many years, his main focus at Myrtle was working with the junior and senior high school students as a Sunday school teacher. He also tutored a number of his students in math and science. Mr. Brown, a man known for his forceful character, held strong beliefs and convictions. He was always willing to speak out on causes that he believed were just, even when such stands were unpopular and perhaps detrimental to his career. He attributed many of his own beliefs and character development to be the direct result of early lessons he had learned as a child in Sunday school and church.
From early adulthood, Henry was known as an activist and being concerned about the development of his fellow Black youth. While in college he was an advisor and basketball coach to a junior high youth club at the 9th Street YMCA in Cincinnati. Additionally, he was an organizer on the University of Cincinnati campus and a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. After graduation, he was a local leader in the civil rights movement and active in organizing protests in Elizabeth, New Jersey during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was also an advisor to the Elizabeth NAACP Youth Council and was Membership Chairman for one of the branch’s most successful membership/recruitment drives. He held a Diamond Life membership in the NAACP, was an organizer with the United Negro Voters Council and a member of the Urban League. Mr. Brown was
also a "big brother" mentor in the Big Brothers and Sisters of America. He received the Big Brother
Award for Outstanding Service to Youth in 1965.
In 1982, the University of Cincinnati honored him with a Distinguished Alumni award. He was a Trustee of the University of Cincinnati Foundation for 24 years and was an organizer of the “Pioneers Scholarship Fund” for minority engineering students at the University. In 2001, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree from the University of Cincinnati for his pioneering efforts in engineering, and for his professional and civic work in advancing minorities in engineering. In 2012, he was elected to the “Hall of Fame” of Walnut Hills High School.
Prior to joining Polaroid, Henry worked as a Research Engineer with Esso Research and Engineering Company in Linden, New Jersey, and as a Development Engineer at the E. R. Squibb and Sons Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was the first Black chemical engineer for both companies. From 1969 to 1973 he was an evening instructor at Columbia University teaching a course titled “Engineering for Non-Engineers in the Pharmaceutical Industry”. In his 24 years with Polaroid, Henry worked in a number of positions, including that of Manufacturing Manager, Corporate Safety Director, and Chemicals Quality Control Manager. He retired in 1996.
Mr. Brown was a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the National Society for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), and a Fellow in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). He was the first African-American to serve on the AIChE’s Board of Directors and headed the Fellows group meetings for three years. While he served on various other committees for AIChE, Mr. Brown was best known in AIChE for work in Career Guidance and particularly his pioneering efforts on increasing the number of Blacks in Chemical Engineering. He was an organizer of the Minority Affairs Committee of AIChE and played an important role in helping Howard University obtain funds from Exxon for its Chemical Engineering Building in 1968 (Howard was the first HBCU to offer a Chemical Engineering curriculum). For his “outstanding contributions through service to the Institute,” Henry was the recipient of the prestigious AIChE F.J. & Dorothy Van Antwerpen Award in 1996. After his retirement, Mr. Brown maintained close contact with the minority-engineering efforts of his professional organizations. In 2004 he received the Grimes Award and in 2015 the Pioneer of Diversity Award, both also from the AIChE. In 2018 the AIChE Foundation and the Minority Affairs Committee renamed the MAC Endowment Fund in his honor – & The Henry T. and Melinda C. Brown Endowment for the Education of Under- Represented Minority Chemical Engineers.”
While living in Metuchen, New Jersey, Mr. Brown was a member of the Board of Education and served as its Vice President before leaving in 1972. He was Chairman of the Board of Health of Weston, Massachusetts (1982-1991) and was actively involved with bringing resolution to the problem of pollution of groundwater in Weston Town Center. In both of these communities, Mr. Brown was the first African-American to hold any elective office.
Henry, with his wife Melinda, became the family historian for both sides of the combined Brown/Wells family. They were known for their genealogy research, maintaining numerous directories of family members, countless files, photographs, early documents as well as other memorabilia on both his and his wife’s families. Additionally, he was an enthusiastic traveler who took his family on numerous camping trips throughout the United States and traveled to innumerable locations worldwide with his wife. Many of his travels also included gathering information on the family and/or tracing lost family members. On most occasions, he was the photographer, record keeper and archivist for family events. Genealogy was his second passion and one on which he worked diligently up until his death. He even researched, and had published in the Weston Town Crier, the history of African-Americans in Weston, MA, which he traced back to the 1700s.
Henry is survived by his son Gregory Elias (Monique) of Framingham MA, his daughter M. Allyson
Brown Griffin (Ken) of Valley Forge, PA, two grandchildren, Ian Elias and Camille Eliane, and by two
brothers: Rev. Floyd Brown, and Dea. Jimmie Albert Brown, both of Cincinnati, Ohio, and numerous
cousins, nieces, nephews, and in-laws primarily in the states of Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey and
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation can be made in Henry's honor to either of the two scholarship funds that he was instrumental in creating. The two funds are:
The Henry T. and Melinda C. Brown Endowment for the Education of Underrepresented Minority Chemical Engineers (sponsored by AIChE, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers ):
The Pioneers' Scholorship Fund (sponsored by the University of Cincinnati Foundation)