Losing an historian

The City Wire Editorial

To those who love this state’s written history, they will know the name, Dr. Walter Lee Brown. The great and long-time editor/leader of the Arkansas Historical Association, died this past week.

Dr. Brown, 89, was a Texan from a simple farmstead down in Coryell County, Texas. He was one of seven children and a U.S. Army Air Corps member in World War II.

Dr. Brown was also one of a handful of University of Texas graduates following the post-war era to come to Fayetteville and teach at the University of Arkansas. Most of them adopted the state, teaching here and never leaving their new found home. That was the Dr. Walter Lee Brown we knew.

His love for the state of Arkansas and his scholarship on preserving the written history of the state was reflected in his 36 years of serving on the history department faculty. Some 32 of those years, he was editor of the Arkansas Historical Association Quarterly –  the overriding authority of scholarship on Arkansas history.

Dr. Brown, transitioning into retirement, was the secretary-treasurer of the Arkansas Historical Association from 1990-1995. He finally left the campus to retirement on his small farm near Fayetteville.

He was a respected scholar who wrote a well-regarded biography of Albert Pike, the colorful character who came west to a backwoods Arkansas. The book was simply titled, “A Life of Albert Pike.”

Most Arkansas school children over the last 40 years will recall Dr. Brown’s text book, “Our Arkansas,” the recognized Arkansas textbook used by most all the state’s public schools.

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To those that knew Dr. Brown, he was an active Mason, (as was Albert Pike), an outdoorsman who enjoyed the Ozarks and a farm boy at heart. He could tell a good story and loved history.

We shall miss Dr. Brown and the state’s history is indeed in his debt for all he did for future generations to read and study about of state.

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