Roger Henry Brown Sr., age 92, of Gainesville, Ga., passed away Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, at his residence.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, March 1, 2014, at the Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville.
Roger Henry Brown Sr., was born on Nov. 22, 1921, in Wheeler County, Ga., the son of Daisy Blann and William Sloan Brown. He had five siblings: Verna, Carrie Lee, Eva Dee, Waldo and Dorothy Hilda. He grew up on a small farm near the town of McRae, Ga., and at age 21, entered Company A of the U.S. Navy
's 78th Construction Battalion (SeaBees), serving from 1942-45. His company was charged with building runways, docks and housing on a series of Pacific Islands including New Caledonia, New Guinea, Los Negros, Admiralty Islands, Ponam and ultimately, Okinawa. On Ponam, the Company was charged with the daunting task of constructing an operational runway in 11 days and succeeded, foreshadowing a future signature achievement in Brown's career.
Upon the war's conclusion, he enrolled in the Georgia Institute of Technology and graduated in 1952 with a degree in civil engineering. He was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. At Georgia Tech, while still a student, he was asked to design a bridge in nearby Athens and was one of the first to use a new approach to engineering design called the "critical path method." He liked to point out that University of Georgia
football fans would often stand on a bridge designed by a Georgia Tech engineer to watch football games.
Also in 1952, Brown wed Mary Carolyn Moore to whom he was happily married for 61 years. They began married life in Rome, Ga., and moved in 1956 to Gainesville. He worked for several years for the Georgia Department of Transportation before being hired in 1963 to Southeastern Highway Contracting Company as an engineer. He was quickly named President and under his leadership, the fledgling company grew to be one of the most successful highway contractors in the state.
Southeastern built hundreds of miles of interstate highway in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and North and South Carolina. The firm also undertook a job with a biblical timetable, the construction of runways on the new Atlanta Airport over a compressed schedule of 40 days and 40 nights, while the existing airport continued to operate. Severe penalties would be imposed if the schedule was missed and bonuses awarded if it was exceeded. Perhaps having learned from the Navy experience on the island of Ponam, Brown and Southeastern completed the project ahead of schedule.
In addition to his career, Brown was generous in his service of the community. He was a member of Rotary and served as its president in 1987-88. He served as President of the Chattahoochee Country Club from 1972-73. He was appointed to the board of directors of the First National Bank of Gainesville and served from 1974-92. He received the 1977 Public Service Award from the Consulting Engineers Council of Georgia, was named Engineer of the Year in Construction by the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers in 1978, and recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Highway Contractors Association. In 1978, he was given the Silver Beaver Award by the Boy Scouts of America for his service. In 2000, he was inducted into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame.
Despite his numerous achievements, friends and family knew him as a quiet, caring and loving person. He was generous and modest to a fault. Employees of his company frequently showed up at his door for advice, encouragement, even emergency loans, which he offered without hesitation. While talented at games of all kinds, like Scrabble, chess and poker, he was legendary for his skills at checkers. On the ship that carried his company home from World War II
, another company was combined with his. The checkers champion of that company had heard of Brown's prowess and challenged him, refusing to quit until he won. The two company champions met in single combat at first supported by large cheering sections. They competed for 18 hours - the other player never won a game.
Brown was a devoted and loving husband and an unconditionally supportive father. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn; son, Roger Jr.; daughter-in-law, Linda Mason; three grandchildren, Farrell, Lucas and Gracie; and his brother, Waldo.
Gifts in lieu of flowers may be offered to: Eagle Ranch P.O. 7200 Chestnut Mountain, GA 30502; Grace Episcopal Church, 422 Brenau Ave., Gainesville, GA 30501; Berklee College of Music American Roots program Berklee College of Music
Attn: Edie Germano, Gifts Processor MS-1140-IA 1140 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02215, 617-747-2236; or a
Memorial Park North Riverside Chapel, 989 Riverside Drive, Gainesville, GA, 770-297-6200. Online condolences may be expressed at www.memorialparkfuneralhomes.com.