In Memory of Austin T. Brown
By Cynthia A. Lockley
Washington DC – Baltimore Chapter
Sadly, STC Fellow Austin Thomas Brown (1932-2019) passed away peacefully on March 21, 2019 with his loving family by his side in Clackamas, Oregon. He was laid to rest at the Sunnyside Little Chapel of the Chimes & Memorial Gardens in Happy Valley, Oregon.
Austin's family held a memorial service to celebrate his life on May 2, 2019 at Willamette National Cemetery near Portland, Oregon. The family held a second memorial and celebration of his life on his birthday, Saturday, August 3, 2019 at the Colesville United Methodist Church, in Silver Spring, Maryland. His obituary is posted at https://sunnysidechimes.com/tribute/details/2718/Austin-Brown/obituary.html#tribute-start
Austin joined STC in 1967 and became a vital member of the chapter as an active leader, mentor, and supporter. He was elected the first African American president for the chapter (1971-1972 and 1981-1982).
The Washington, DC chapter's Science Writing Contest for High School Students was established in 1962 by then chapter president, Peter A. Smith. Austin helped promote and implement the high school writing contest to encourage the development of technical writing skills among students in grades 9 through 12. As Austin was a strong supporter of the contest extending it to all Washington D.C. Metropolitan area schools, the contest was later renamed The Austin T. Brown Technical Communication Award Scholarship in his honor (1989). Austin managed the contest for many years until he followed the sun to Hawaii in the early 1990s.
From 1982-1986, Austin served on the STC Board of Directors as the Director-Sponsor of Region 3 He was named an STC Associate Fellow in 1986, "For continuing leadership and encouraging participation in the growth and enhancement of the profession of technical communication and for steady support of the goals and objectives of the Society for Technical Communication.".
Austin was elected the first African American president of the Society (1988-1989). As past president of STC, he continued to participate in advancing the goals of STC. He was recognized as a valued consultant and in 1993 was recognized as a Fellow; a high honor conferred by the Society. In 1999, Austin received the STC President's Award—"For years of dedicated service to the Society, for his passion as a leader at the Society and chapter levels, and for his wisdom as a teacher and mentor."
Austin was an inspiration for many members of the Washington DC-Baltimore (WDCB) chapter and the Society for Technical Communication (STC). He was the spark that ignited stronger involvement of many STC members in the chapter and in STC. For example, Austin's name came up in several members' memories during interviews by Liz Babcock for the STC 50th anniversary at the 2002 Nashville Summit. Betty Montgomery and Cynthia Lockley discussed how Austin had influenced them:
Cynthia Lockley: …I first met Austin at the 1984 Seattle, Washington conference while I was heading toward my next session. He saw my badge and speaker ribbon and was surprised that I was from the Washington, D.C. chapter. Austin exclaimed, "Washington, D.C.? How come I've never seen you at a chapter meeting? And you're a panel moderator!" I started to explain, "Well, I…" and Austin declared, "You need to come to more meetings." I was embarrassed and resolved to attend more meetings. I eventually plunged into getting more involved with the chapter when I volunteered to manage publicity for our 1995 conference in DC. I've been participating actively at the chapter and national levels ever since.
Liz to Betty: I was thinking Austin probably never had to chastise you about not going to meetings.
Betty: Well, he kept saying, "You should be doing this, and you should be doing that." So finally, I did. That's why the student competition is dear to my heart, and I have managed that for a number of years. I think that that's very important. Very important.
Liz: When I went over to visit the Aloha Chapter, the members were expressing that he was pushing them into doing things, so that's kind of his role. And he pushed me into putting in my paperwork for associate fellow.
Recently, Annette Reilly remembered Austin as "the one who encouraged me to become involved with STC some 35 years ago, and then he unexpectedly invited me to fill a term on the STC Board of Directors in 1986. He set a fine example of professional leadership for us all. He was soft-spoken, but very clear in what needed to be done. Though we haven’t been in contact very much since he moved to Hawaii, I believe he enjoyed his life there even more than his years of service to the Government and to STC."
Over the years, Austin's career spanned many disciplines in the media, military, education, and communication. Austin began his career in communication as a member of the Publications Committee during his senior year in high school. He was involved in the creation and publication of the school's first yearbook and was known as an avid photographer. He was a DJ for parties in high school and in college, he worked as a radio station announcer and program manager—he promoted the on-air talent, as well as handled the show's marketing and advertising.
As a Korean War U.S. Air Force Veteran, and DOD NOL / NSWC Defense and Communications Systems Technical Operations Manager, he served our country honorably. While serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, he managed military radio and communication projects. Using his education in electrical engineering, he specialized in communication and weapons defense systems. He later became a missile instructor at Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado. He performed research to develop and write technical training manuals for the Department of Defense (DOD). He was also an RCA contractor for the White Alice Project in Alaska.
After settling in Takoma Park, Maryland, Austin accepted a position in White Oak, Maryland at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory (NOL), later known as the Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC). He managed a large group of technical writers, illustrators, and editors. He was responsible for training civilian contractors and overseeing their projects across the nation.
Austin retired from NSWC in Dahlgren, Virginia, and followed the sun to Hawaii where he became a business consultant for government projects. He remained an active member of STC, enjoyed volunteering at church events, and coordinated the Jazz Festival for several years.
Austin T. Brown was a great communicator; the epitome of professionalism. He was a caring and beloved family man, a cherished colleague, a scholar, and friend. He will be missed by many, but never will he be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to have known him!
We extend our heartfelt regrets to his surviving family members: his wife, Jonnie; one son; two daughters; two granddaughters; a sister; two brothers; and a host of great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, and an honorary family member.
Although the chapter ran out of funds for the award in the early 2000s, the STC Washington, DC-Baltimore chapter is considering restarting the scholarship this year, though we only have funds to offer it as a one-time award at this point.
Because Austin's family knows how much STC meant to him and his career, they plan to contribute to the award scholarship to honor him by supporting STC's efforts and carrying his legacy forward. Friends and relatives may contribute to the chapter's Austin T. Brown Technical Communication Award Scholarship as follows.
Donations intended for the Austin T. Brown Memorial Fund may be sent:
By check payable to the Washington, DC-Baltimore Chapter of STC.
Washington, DC-Baltimore Chapter of STC
℅ Annette Reilly
34 N Irving St
Arlington, VA 22201
Please include a notation on your check or with your PayPal or credit card payment stating your donation should be applied to the Austin T. Brown Memorial Fund.
If you prefer to donate to the Society as a whole, donations may be sent to the STC office:
By check, payable to the Society for Technical Communication:
Society for Technical Communication
3251 Old Lee Highway
Fairfax VA 22030
Please include a notation on your check or with your PayPal or credit card payment stating your donation should be applied to the Austin T. Brown Memorial Fund of the Washington, DC-Baltimore Chapter of STC.
All donations are tax deductible and may be submitted as unrestricted donations to the Legacy Circle or the Benefactor Circle; or as a restricted donation to the STC Student Scholarship Fund. For information about various ways to donate to the Society, please see the STC Annual Fund page at https://www.stc.org/about-stc/support-stc-now
Please include a notation on your check or with your PayPal or credit card payment stating to which fund your donation should be applied.