Herbert R. Brown, an influential Cincinnati businessman, longtime executive with Western & Southern Financial Group, and Great Living Cincinnatian, died Thursday, March 11, 2021 at the age of 80 in Florence, KY. He was born May 20, 1940 in Asheville, NC.
A quietly imposing and widely revered personality who often worked behind the scenes, he was an influential figure within the Greater Cincinnati community and played a critical role in the improvement of race relations in Cincinnati.
“Herb was an amazing individual whose dedication to the Cincinnati community was unmatched,” said John F. Barrett, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Western & Southern. “A kind and exceptionally gifted leader, he emanated both grace and gravitas and always kept his cool under the most stressful situations. We will miss him dearly.”
Brown graduated from Warren G. Harding High School in 1958, where he was active in various extracurricular activities, including a successful run as a golden gloves boxer.
Upon graduation from high school, he entered the U.S. military, where he served in the paratroopers. He went on to attend the University of Cincinnati and the Ohio Data Processing Institute.
After completing computer training in 1963, Brown began his career with The Western and Southern Life Insurance Company, now a member of Western & Southern Financial Group, as a computer trainee. He worked in Computer Operations, Human Resources and Public Relations. He rose through the ranks at Western & Southern and, in 1985, was named second vice president of Community Affairs, before being promoted to vice president in 1990. In 1996, he was named vice president of Public Relations, and, in 2001, he was promoted to senior vice president. Herb also served on a number of Western & Southern policy committees.
He retired from Western & Southern in 2007, and joined the company’s board of directors in 2008.
Outside his corporate responsibilities, Brown served on the Cincinnati Board of Education from 1978-1987 and was president of the School Board. In addition, he served as president of the Ohio and National Caucus of Black School Board Members. He was appointed by Governor Richard Celeste to serve on the board of Cincinnati State and Technical College for three years, and was chairman when the board voted to become a State Community College.
Brown received an honorary doctorate of Technical Letters from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. He was appointed by Governor Robert Taft to serve on the Ohio Athletic Commission. He received the Key to the City of Cincinnati in 1993 from Mayor Dwight Tillery. In 1996, Brown was recognized by Applause! Magazine with the prestigious Imagemaker Award for “Lifetime Achievers.” He was a former member of the board of the Cincinnati Branch of Key Bank. In 2002, he was appointed to a three-year term as a Director of the Cincinnati Branch – Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
The United Way named The African American Leadership Initiative, The Herbert R. Brown Society, in recognition of his commitment to improving the quality of life for African Americans and other communities of color in this region. He summed up his philosophy of servant leadership this way: “There is no greater thing in life than to answer a call from others in need as a true testament that your own needs are secondary.”
In 2004, Brown received the Theodore M. Berry Award from the NAACP and the Paul M. Lund Public Service Award from the National Public Relations Society of America. He was inducted into the Warren G. Harding High School Hall of Fame in 2005. He received the Urban League Lions Award in 2006 and the Cincinnati Human Relations Community Service Award in 2007.
In 2015, he was named a Great Living Cincinnatian.
Brown considered volunteerism as an investment in the community and contributed many of his own hours to worthwhile causes. He was on the boards of the Boy Scouts of America, where he received the Scouts’ highest honor, the Silver Beaver Award. He was also a board member of Families FORWARD, and served as president of the Community Police Partnering Center. He chaired the local United Way National Health agencies committee and served on the National United Way Public Policy committee.
Brown was a Life Member of the NAACP, a 32nd Degree Mason and a member of Alpha Delta Boule. He also has served on the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, where he served as chairman and interim executive director on two occasions.
He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and three adult children; Cheryl Noble, Adrian Brown and Janice Hooks, 9 grandchildren, Christopher, Brandon, Eric, Porscha, Amber, Ashley, Kenyada, Justin and Aveion; 17 great grandchildren, and a host of other relatives and many dear friends.