Alma Arrington Brown, beloved wife of Ronald and adoring mother of Tracey and Michael, passed away on April 3, 2016, exactly 20 years to the day of her husband’s death. Mrs. Brown showered her family and friends with love and received love in return every day of her life. From her childhood, to when she met Ronald H. Brown, to raising their children and grandchildren, she was a vibrant, generous spirit for all who were blessed to know and love her.
The future life-long community leader and Democratic activist was born Alma Arrington in Brooklyn, New York on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1940, to the late Martin Luther Arrington and Dorothy Madison Arrington. She earned her BA from Fisk University and her masters degree from Manhattanville College.
Miss Arrington met her future husband, Ronald Brown, during the summer of 1959 in Sag Harbor when they were both college students. They married in 1962 and lived overseas while he completed his military service. In 1967, the young couple returned to New York before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1975, where they settled and raised their two children, Michael and Tracey.
Mrs. Brown started her career as an educator, teaching nursery school children, as well as teen mothers in urban communities. While raising her children, in Washington, DC, she was drawn to opportunities to work on behalf of vulnerable children and communities. Among the national organizations that benefitted from her expertise and compassion over the years were the National Black Child Development Institute, National Urban League, United Negro College Fund, Girl Scouts of America and National Council of Negro Women, where she ran an award-winning program that provided life skills development and other critical services to rural women in the Mississippi Delta.
While working in the District of Columbia Office of International Business, Mrs. Brown assisted in negotiations with the Chinese Government to construct a Chinese archway in the Nation’s Capital. The archway served to spearhead the resurgence of Washington’s Chinatown neighborhood. Today, it serves as a tourism gateway and destination.
Mrs. Brown became involved in broadcasting in 1989 when she took over as director of public affairs/public relations and hosted a public affairs radio show for WKYS-FM in Washington, DC. She remained there for six years before joining Chevy Chase Bank as a vice president and rose to become Sr. Vice President. Later, she also became vice chairperson of BET Financial Services, a joint venture between Chevy Chase Bank and Black Entertainment Television.
With the April 3, 1996 death of her husband while leading a trade mission to Croatia, Mrs. Brown remained strong, and together with her children established the Ronald H. Brown Foundation. The organization established a policy center for domestic and international commercial growth. She was a founding board member of the Ron Brown Scholars Program, an organization that has provided college scholarships and mentorship for nearly 400 young people of color since its inception. She kept his memory alive, and was a generous mentor and friend to her late husband’s colleagues and staff at the Democratic National Committee and the U.S. Department of Commerce. She was also named to serve as an honorary co-chairperson of President Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign in 1996.
Mrs. Brown remained active with national and community social, civic and political organizations throughout her life. She served on numerous national boards including the Board of Trustees of Fisk University, the National Urban League, and Providence Hospital as well as on the local advisory board of the United Negro College Fund and the American Cancer Society. She held leadership roles in many social and civic organizations including the Links, Inc., Jack and Jill, the Girlfriends, Inc., and the National Smart Set.
Alma Arrington Brown leaves to mourn her passing, her two children, Michael Brown and Tracey Brown James (Kendall James); grandchildren Morgan and Ryan Brown and Harmon and Caleb James; cousins Betty Arrington Martin, Martin Bowman, and Carolyn and Charles Davis, and, and a host of friends, colleagues and so many others in Washington, DC, New York City, Sag Harbor, across the country and around the world.