Officials, friends mourn death of longtime attorney Jack Brown

Longtime Board of Supervisors Attorney Jack Brown reads to his granddaughter Jemma Smith in December. Brown passed away at OCH Regional Medical Center on Saturday at the age of 72. (submitted photo)

Longtime Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors Attorney Jack Brown died at OCH Regional Medical Center on Saturday at the age of 72 after a hard-fought battle with cancer, but local leaders and friends say his legacy will live on.

Brown, who served as board attorney for nearly two decades up until his death and practiced law for almost five, is survived by his three daughters and six grandchildren.

Before embarking on an impactful legal career, Brown - who was the son of attorney Lavell “Red” Brown and Una Martin Brown - was born in Starkville in 1946 and graduated from Starkville High School in 1964.

He then earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Mississippi State University in 1969 and his juris doctor from the Jackson School of Law in 1971.

Brown would then serve as the board attorney for nearly 20 years.

Brown’s daughter, Oktibbeha County Prosecutor Haley Brown, called her father a “dynamic man,” who spent his life defending those who needed help and ensuring the best interests of Oktibbeha County were met by its government.

“I am the person I am today because of my father,” Haley Brown said. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps and be a lawyer ever since I could remember because of him. He was my greatest teacher, counselor and confidante. There will never be another person like Jackson Brown.”

While his work for Oktibbeha County has been lauded as crucial by locals, Brown also made a name for himself as a criminal defense attorney who cared deeply about his clients.

Brown’s legal secretary and friend for decades, Barbara A. Mitchell, told the Starkville Daily News that she was at a loss for words and was deeply saddened at the death of a “great boss, friend and counselor of 35 years.”

“His greatest love was his three beautiful daughters and serving the people of Oktibbeha County,” Mitchell said. “I will continue to think of him often as will many. He never told me bye, it was always “Later.’”

Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer said the county was heartbroken by news of Brown’s death, but said the county would be forever grateful for the service of the longtime attorney.

“He served the county faithfully for all those years, provided good, sound advice and guidance,” Trainer said. “I always respected him. He was the kind of guy who would tell you what he thought. He will be greatly missed.”

Oktibbeha County Chancery Court Clerk Sharon Livingston echoed the sentiment, calling Brown “a legend.”

“I will always cherish the years I had to work with him,” Livingston said. “He will truly be missed and my prayers go out to his family.”

Livingston then called Brown “one of a kind” and said she got to know him when she came to work for Oktibbeha County in 1996.

“He was a good man and a man of his word,” Livingston said. “I will always remember him and his saying ‘Later.’ He would never tell you goodbye, just ‘Later.’”

Livingston looked back fondly on the laughs they shared and said she will cling tight to the memories she has.

“I will always cherish his friendship and he will truly be missed,” Livingston said. “The Board meetings will never be the same and nobody will ever fill his shoes. But I will say his legacy will always live on.”

Trainer praised Brown as an independent thinker and a man who put the county’s interests before personal politics.

“We listened to him … the majority of the board wouldn’t move forward without him,” Trainer said. “He probably had more influence than I did or any other supervisors.”

Trainer said Brown will be difficult to replace, but the county will wait until its next meeting to discuss how to go about filling the position. He then said it would be crucial for the county to find a replacement worthy of the respect earned by Brown after his years of service.

“It wouldn’t be wise to go without legal advice and I’m sure we will get a lot of suggestions from a lot of different positions,” Trainer said.

District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller fought back tears as she remembered Brown as a friend.

She said during his time as the board attorney, Brown never once asked for a raise in pay.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jack Brown,” Miller said. “His public service and virtue represents the very best of Oktibbeha County,” Miller said. “It was an honor to have him as a mentor and call him my friend.”

Miller then praised the memory of a man that she said had the “heart of a true public servant.”

“Jack was a true southern gentleman and greeted you with a tip of the head and ‘how you.’” Miller said. “He also never said goodbye he would say ‘later.’ I will miss him dearly.”