Friday, April 2, 2004

Allen Brown fought for civil liberties

Lawyer served diverse clients

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Allen Brown once described himself as a Don Quixote who didn't know how to get off his horse.

A fierce defender of civil liberties, his list of clients included pornographers and their retailers, antiwar protesters and the Ku Klux Klan.

"He was fearless in terms of the causes he would take," said his son, Ashley Brown of Belmont, Mass., adding that he once saw the local head of the Black Panther Party and the KKK in the same office - his father's.

"He defended them both and their right to free speech," he said.

Allen Brown died in hospice Thursday morning of cancer. He was 84.

Brown, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, attended Cincinnati elementary schools and Hughes High School.

"He was just like Husman's potato chips," said his daughter, Michelle Brown of Anchorage, Alaska. "The best since 1919. That's what I used to say about my dad."

Brown earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati before going off to fight in World War II. His service, from 1941 to 1945, earned him a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and assorted other medals.

Brown received his law degree from UC in 1947 and practiced until he retired in 1996, specializing in civil rights and civil liberties cases. He served as general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Cincinnati from 1970 to 1985.

"Cincinnati is a lot poorer today for his passing, but a lot richer for the work he did during his long and distinguished career," said Scott Greenwood, general counsel for the ACLU of Ohio.

In the courtroom, Brown once said, the Constitution was the armor that protected him in the joust. Family members say Brown was fearless and unconventional. Once, he cross-examined a witness in Yiddish, throwing the man off.

"He had classic legal battles but would walk out of the courtroom as a friend of the other side," Ashley Brown said. "Growing up with that was an amazing experience."

Michelle Brown was 18 years old when she watched her father argue his most famous case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Brandenberg v. Ohio, the high court established that even speech construed as evil is protected by the Constitution and can be suppressed only if it is intended and likely to produce imminent lawless action.

The family received death threats, and the client, a Klansman, didn't want a Jew to represent him.

"Despite all of that, he went ahead," she said. "If there was a principle at stake, he would just go on and on and on. He lived it. You just would not find a more honorable man."

For his children, he was a role model and continues to be a moral compass.

"He always stuck to his guns," Ashley Brown said.

Brown is also survived by his wife, Rosanne Brown of Mason; a son, Mark Brown of Los Angeles; four stepsons, Chris ZurSchmiede of Oshkosh, Wis., Shawn Piers of Washington, Ill., Tom Piers of Elmwood and Kevin Piers of Landen; a sister, Shirley Berman of Medford, Ore.; 12 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Beatrice Corson Brown.

Visitation is from 11:15 a.m. until the service at noon Sunday at Weil Funeral Home, 8350 Cornell Road, Symmes Township. Burial will be at Love Brothers Cemetery in Price Hill.

Memorials may be made to Hospice of Cincinnati, 4310 Cooper Road 45242, or the ACLU of Ohio Foundation, 4506 Chester Ave., Cleveland, OH 44103.

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