A man of integrity, courage and love
The life of an American Hero
Now resides up above
He lived to protect
And served with compassion
Years of fighting
To his death, was his passion.
One day we will see him again
Unknowing of that day,
Only God knows when.
REVEREND JASPER ROSS BROWN, SR., was born to the Reverend David Rufus (fondly called D.R.) Brown and Torah P. Bowers Brown, on September 17, 1925, in Malone, Florida.
He departed this life peacefully in his sleep on April 24, 2019 at approximately 4:30 a.m. He was 93 years old. His son, Derrell Lamar Brown and his Personal Assistant and trusted friend of the last six years, France Land, were with him as he made a smooth and much anticipated joyful transition to his heavenly home.
Jasper was one of thirteen children and as he would often say, he was his mother’s “good looking” Son; older than his baby brother, Virgil C. Brown, but younger than his oldest brother, Ulysses S. Brown.
Jasper attended elementary school in the public schools of Jackson County, Florida. He sporadically attended secondary school, as he grew into adolescence and young manhood, inasmuch as he had to help his Father with the hard work of farming. Though farm work was hard and sometimes unpredictable, Jasper found farm work rewarding and fulfilling. Even into his senior years, he had a heart and love for farming; so much so, he continued to drive tractors, learn about livestock and plant vegetable gardens, from which he would generously give cabbage, collards, corn and tomatoes to his neighbors. Jasper was a visionary always looking to excel. He supported the Georgia Catfish Farmers Cooperative, investing in the opportunity of catfish farming by buying shares in the corporation, with the expectation that the industry would one day excel. It did. Without a real estate license, because one was not required, Jasper began to dabble in real estate and began selling and buying property in Donalsonville and the surrounding area, having been taught the trade by Mr. Dallas Wurst. Jasper eventually bought and purchased prime real estate in Donalsonville belonging to Dallas Wurst, upon which he established a new timeline of prosperity for the benefit of his Children. Jasper always believed that Donalsonville, Georgia would be the Mayberry R.F.D. of America, if anyone ever discovered the hidden treasure in the hearts of the people who abode in his beloved little town.
Because manhood was thrust upon Jasper at an early age, he only completed an 8th grade education, yet he was a fastidious reader and an intelligent man, who had a love for books and learning. He later went back to school and obtained a GED, taking high school classes in Tallahassee, Florida, while working full time at Great Southern Plywood Mill, in Cedar Springs, Georgia; continuing to Pastor at the same time. Jasper was so proud to obtain the High School Equivalency Certificate, demonstrating to those around him that you are never too old to develop a level of knowledge that is respected, by taking an internationally recognized test like the GED. Jasper’s daughter, Kendra Brown, shares his love for education, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English from the prestigious Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia. Kendra now teaches in the Atlanta Public School System.
As a young man, Jasper was inspired by his parents to work hard. He especially admired the intelligence, giftedness, talent and ability of women to thrive and make their way in challenging situations. Anyone who knew Jasper knew how much he loved his Mother, Torah Pocahontas Bowers Brown, as he would often reflect on her spiritual courage and her unrelenting tenacity. He would often credit his mother with his courage, and his father, David Rufus (D.R.) Brown, with his work ethic and determination to keep his word, no matter how hard the road was to be trodden. As a child, Jasper and his siblings exemplified the Christian values instilled in them by their mother, the school teacher and their father, the Preacher. Part of their childhood rearing, and exposure was learning spiritual hymns that they sang at home and church, discussing the Bible and the importance of salvation, and respecting their parents. Consequently, Jasper and his siblings were serious about family life and vigorously pursued their relationship with Christ and unconditional love for family. Jasper enjoyed life and embraced learning new life skills. He delved into Politics even while his ministry became more demanding, becoming the first Black City Councilman in Donalsonville, Georgia. Jasper often discussed how he had no desire to be involved in politics, until he was approached by Mr. Martin Pugh, who implored him as a Leader to get involved for the benefit of the community. Jasper’s foray into politics helped him to understand how important it is for Christians to be involved in the decision-making for their communities. He and Ms. Anna Wynn became fast comrades on the Council as Anna walked into the door of politics on the City Council right after Jasper’s entry into the political world. Jasper’s daughter, Angela Orange, followed in her father’s footsteps, and hit the ground running as a newly elected school board member for Marietta Georgia City School Board, Ward 5. Angela is also one of the youngest managing directors with Teach for America.
The serious aspects of Jasper’s childhood and the time in which he was born, served as a catalyst which inspired him to be a voice for the voiceless. He often found himself thrust to the forefront in many David and Goliath battles, helping the employees at Great Southern Plywood Mill organize and form a union to protect their rights to a fair wage, to fair pensions, health and disability insurance and overall fair treatment. His friend and class leader, Geraldine Cochran tells how he mentored her for strategic positions in the plywood mill so she could earn the income necessary to educate her beautiful twin girls, Melody and Melanie Cochran, and her son, a dentist, Dr. Michael Saffold.
Jasper was never reluctant to challenge injustice in the workplace or anywhere else, when people who sought his help were treated unfairly. His daughter, Alice Brown Rodriguez, expresses his justice and entrepreneurial gene, as an attorney and business woman.
Pivotal to every significant event in Jasper’s life was the fact that at an early age, he committed his life to Jesus Christ. He joined the church and was baptized, serving as a long-time faithful member of Wesley Chapel A.M.E. Church in Iron City, Georgia, teaching Sunday School, leading devotions, and serving in any capacity needed; including consistent financial giving, paying his tithes and offering right up until his passing, as a member of Live Oak A.M.E. Church, where Rev. Kenneth Cody became his Pastor, when Jasper retired from the pulpit. He understood submission and the need for a local pastor, eagerly becoming close to Reverend Cody, after he retired from pastoring. Jasper could be found working on Wesley Chapel for years, putting roofs on the church, helping to build and expand the church as it grew, cleaning the church, or whatever was needed at the time. He continued to labor for the church physically, spiritually and financially. In his own pastoral assignments, he would work to be sure the Church he was pastoring was debt free and that the church, parsonages, and accompanying buildings were in good order. Jasper insisted on order. During his entire 20 plus years as a Pastor, Jasper never received or asked for a “Pastor’s Appreciation Day” at any of his churches in order to receive additional income from the Saints.
At 18 years old, Jasper was inducted into the United States Marine Corps. On September 17, 1944, he turned 19 years old on the battlefield as a World War II Marine. The Battle of Peleliu, was code named Operation Stalemate II. The battle was fought between the United States and the Empire of Japan in the Pacific Theater of World War II, from September through November 1944, in what is now called present-day Palau. The Battle of Peleliu was once called “Unnecessary Hell” by writer Eric Niderost. Niderost wrote that “In the predawn hours of September 15, 1944, a powerful fleet of U.S. Navy warships trained its guns on Peleliu…The ships included the Pennsylvania, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Idaho, supported by a host of heavy and light cruisers. When hour arrived the guns opened fire, their muzzles spouting great sheets of smoke and flame, and the thunderous noise was so great a man had to shout at the top of his lungs to be heard.” Young Jasper Ross Brown, Sr., who had just left his mother on her death bed as he departed for the war, as an 18-year-old, was in the middle of that great battle. While Peleliu was being pummeled by a steady barrage of shells, and while flames shot high into the air, with thick roils of toxic smoke covering the island like a black cloud, the landing beaches were so dark from the smoke, a man could not see his hand in front of his face. But Jasper, later recounting that Battle to his son-in-law, Anthony (Tony) Rodriguez, when asked if he was afraid, said “No. I was not afraid. I know my mama had prayed for me.”
As a result of Jasper’s bravery in the Battle of Peleliu, along with many others of his comrades in arms, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal under President Barack Obama’s administration on June 27, 2012, in Washington, D.C. He beamed with hope and gratitude as the Marine Commandant draped the Gold Medal around his neck. Not a Marine present at that ceremony complained that the honor was more than 50 years in the making. Like Jasper, they expressed that they had been proud to serve their country. Annette Orange emulated her father’s warrior heart by going into the military to serve her country. Upon leaving the military Annette continued to fulfill Jasper’s desire for career development for his daughters, becoming a real estate mortgage compliance executive and entrepreneur.
Jasper faced the beginning of World War II, as one of many courageous African American men of his generation who became known as “the toughest outfit going,” than the previously all-white Marine Corps. He was among the first recruits who reported to Montford Point, a tiny section of land on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. As of October, only 600 recruits had begun training for the war. The call was for 1,000 men for combat in the 51st and 52nd Composite Defense Battalions. Jasper answered the call and in later years would often would take his daughter Alice to the spot in Donalsonville where he was inducted into the Marine Corps. He proudly recounted the story of his enlistment. He was proud to be a Marine. He was also the first Black man inducted into the Marine Corps from Seminole County, Georgia. His discipline as a young man and his faith and rigorous upbringing prepared him for the demanding training required to fight bravely and to stay alive in the Battle of Peleliu. Years later he would reflect that when the Marines captured Peleliu Island “they cleared off the space about the size of a football field and planted the American Flag. When that flag was planted, I slept that night in my bunk like a baby, because that flag made me feel like I was home.” Jasper was honorably discharged from the military on the 7th of May 1946.
When Jasper returned home from World War II, within a few days of his return, he met the woman he said he knew he would marry. Shortly thereafter Jasper married Ruby Moore Brown, who predeceased him. Their love song was “Sentimental Journey.”
They demonstrated the power of their vows in staying married in sickness and in health and for better or for worse. In their senior years their friendship became one which was golden, and a testament to a couple committed to staying together and finishing what they started, while understanding the power of family love. The two of them were married for 53 years before Ruby’s death, on May 26, 2001. Jasper and Ruby had 10 Children, seven of those children predeceased them both.
Jasper became the Patriarch of his family at an early age and lived out the legacy his parents left him, with honor. Eventually following in his father’s spiritual footsteps, on October 23, 1977, Jasper accepted the call into the ministry and was licensed to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church under the protection of the Almighty God. Jasper served the people of God and pastored for over 20 years under the jurisdiction of the South Georgia Conference, retiring in his 80’s. The churches he served are as follows:
• Whigham Circuit & Little Bethel A.M.E. Church, McRaeville, Georgia, South Georgia Conference; Appointment-April 29th, 1983-1986;
• Hilton Circuit, Southwest Georgia Conference, Appointment-April 29th, 1986- 1991;
• Newberry A.M.E. Church, Southwest Georgia Conference, Appointment-1986-1988;
• Payne Chapel A.M.E. Church, Cuthbert, Georgia, Southwest Georgia Conference; Appointment- March 27, 1992-1996;
• Aimwell A.M.E. Church, Southwest Georgia Conference, Appointment-April 11th, 19992002;
• Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Southwest Georgia Conference, Appointment April 11th, 1999-2002.
Jasper retired after his assignment at Brown Chapel and began farming again at Spooner Chance Farms, where he and Larry Chance became close friends. Just when Jasper thought he could go back to his first love of farming; he was called back to the church by Presiding Elder John Bass. When he returned to the pulpit, he was assigned to Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Hilton, and pastored for another four years, finally stepping down to complete retirement on December 10, 2011. From time to time Reverend Cody, would ask Jasper to preach and he loved nothing more than saying “yes” to his Pastor and the opportunity to preach the gospel.
As a Pastor, Jasper handled the business of the Church with seriousness, while shepherding the hearts of the Saints with tenderness and care. He always had a word of encouragement for others, even when things were not going well in his own life. Jasper was a man of his word. If he told you that he was going to do something, he did it. Though Jasper never boasted about it, he did not just preach in the A.M.E. Church, but he had the opportunity to preach before thousands and lead many to the Lord alongside a new friend he made in his later years, named Bill Britt. Jasper met Bill Britt in 2002, when he continued to support his Children’s dreams by attending professional business conferences with them.
Jasper willingly served the Lord, continually looking out for the best interest of the people. He was a duly registered delegate to the Christian Education Leadership Congress, completing the Pastoral Practicum’s necessary to qualify to lead God’s people. Jasper received many other awards of meritorious achievement in the Church and the Community, including awards from the NAACP, and other certificates of appreciation for his valuable support of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Jasper’s life has truly been that of a man whose character was forged in the furnace of God’s Love and his reward has been tremendous. He is survived by his beloved baby brother, Virgil Carlton Brown (Uncle Bay), formerly of Laramie, Wyoming. Virgil returned to Donalsonville six years ago and the brothers have been inseparable, coming to live together again after having been apart since they were 18 years old. Jasper is also survived by his eight children: Jasper Ross Brown, Jr. (Gwendolyn) of ,Norcross, Georgia, Derrell Lamar Brown (Karen) of Donalsonville, Georgia. Alice Brown Rodriguez (Tony) of Fayetteville, Georgia, Kendra Brown of Atlanta, Georgia, Deborah Brown of Miami, Florida, Angela Orange of Marietta, Georgia, Annette Orange of College Park, Georgia and Anthony Orange of Dothan, Alabama. The love for family continues in Jasper’s legacy with 16 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Jasper was especially fond of his Personal Assistant and Angel on earth, France Land, who attended to his every need for the past six years. Likewise, his friend and companion, whom he affectionately referred to as “Sweet,” Ms. Petronia Mike, supported and cared for him and his brother, Virgil; cooking their meals, taking them to church and being Jasper’s eyes and ears as his footsteps grew shorter. Petronia remained a constant companion as Jasper needed those who knew, loved, and who understood him to serve him as he had served others and abide with him in unconditional love during the aging process. Wyonda C. Pringley, was also the apple of Jasper’s eye. He helped her mother Torah, shepherd her like she was his own daughter. She too became a great educator and taught school for 40 years. Even now, like Jasper she is still unable to retire because Tucker High School continually calls her to continue to be a much-needed blessing to children in the classroom. Wyonda called Jasper “Uncle Son” as did all his brother’s and sister’s children. She is the "Girl Child: in her generation who carries much wisdom in her bosom as a result of having been so close to her uncle son and her own mother, Torah Brown Pringley.
Only those who were intimately close with Jasper knew how proud he was to hail from the Bowers Clan. Jasper was the grandson of Noylar Bowers, also a family man of great tradition. Noylar Bowers was the father of Torah Pocahontas Bowers Brown. Noylar Bowers established a family reunion tradition over 100 years ago, which has continued every year for 105 years. The Bowers Family has only missed having the family reunion one year, which was during the Civil War. Jasper attended almost every family reunion. He was especially close to his uncle, Reverend A.H. Bowers of Bascom, Florida, who preceded Jasper in the race to eternity. Jasper’s sisters who predeceased him were: Annie V. Brown Lewis, Maurice Brown, Torah Brown Pringley, Mattie Brown Koonce, Basha Bernice Brown Williams, and his brother, the Reverend Ulysses Sargent Brown, also an A.M.E. Church Pastor for over 30 years.
As the family comes together to close the curtain on the earthly life of Jasper Ross Brown, Sr., we seal the legacy that is profound and everlasting, because it is rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus Christ. We celebrate Jasper’s life, applauding his untiring devotion to his family, his relentless pursuit of the will of God for his life, and his unwavering faith. The exemplary work ethic, zealous determination to make a difference in the lives of others and continual reverence for God left by Jasper for his family and friends has left an indelible imprint on the lives and hearts of those he touched. As a Patriarch, Jasper loved his Sons, but he treasured, respected, admired and doted on his Daughters. They are all truly “Daddy’s Girls”. Jasper’s continued expectation for his sons and his daughters, the Church, his entire family and his friends is that we would love one another as Jesus Christ has loved us; that we would hold on to God’s unchanging hand, and know that our strength lies in our Faith in God.