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Michael John BROWN


1933 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Michael John BROWN Obituary
BROWN, Michael John Born September 28, 1933 in Racine, Wisconsin, the firstborn child and only son of proud and loving parents John R. and Eve Brown. Died peacefully in the early morning of August 16, 2018, in his home of more than 50 years. Mike was raised in Racine and spent childhood summers working on his uncle's dairy farm in Tomahawk. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1955 with a philosophy degree. As a young man he put his education to good use working as a tractor driver, oil burner installer, busboy, concrete saw operator, and lifeguard on Lake Michigan. After college, he moved to Tucson to see what the sun looked like from November to March. From 1957 to 1959 while attending the University of Arizona College of Law, he worked as a Pima County Sheriff's deputy and detective. After graduating law school in 1959, he was appointed City Prosecutor in 1960, and then was in solo or small firm law practice for twenty years at his 222 North Court office, Congressman Mo Udall's former law office. During his years of private practice, he represented the spectrum of clients and legal issues that defined a true jack-of-all-trades attorney. While there were many noteworthy cases and people, he represented the White Mountain Apache Tribe for years and in 1980 argued on their behalf before the U.S. Supreme Court. As a member of the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, he was proud to have personally moved for admission to the High Court's bar for his own father in 1980 and his son Michael in 2008. Mike was a community activist and tireless advocate for under-served people from all walks of life, especially those dealing with racial or gender discrimination, developmental disabilities and mental illness. He took this commitment and challenge to heart in his professional and personal life. He was elected to the Pima College Board of Governors that founded the West Campus, was a board member of La Frontera, Inc., and volunteered for the Arizona Training Program Tucson. He was a Government Appeal Agent for the Selective Service Board, hearing appeals of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War. He was appointed to the Pima County Superior Court bench in 1981 by then Governor Bruce Babbitt and served as Presiding Judge from 1994 to 1998. He retired from the bench in 2001. As a judge he was fair, principled, hard-working, no-nonsense, and a true believer in the law, our system of justice and the principles of democracy. He was a positive force for civility, professionalism and the camaraderie of the practice of law despite the adversarial nature of the job. Almost two decades after he retired from the bench, litigants and lawyers on both sides still recall his fairness and decency, keen mind, preparation, and sense of humor. As a trial judge he championed the issue of jury reform, helping jurors be more actively involved in trials and assisting court systems across the country in updating, protecting and preserving the fundamental aspects of the jury trial system. As Presiding Judge he pushed to modernize the Court and administrative practices to be more user-friendly for all participants, including jurors, litigants, defendants and the public. He was proud of his work at the Court and he loved being a judge. It was his true calling in life. Mike had many passions. Every summer for decades he made a transformation from wearing judges' robes to shorts and flip-flops as a Grand Canyon river rat. He established lasting relationships with Grand Canyon river outfitters and with the boat people who worked there. Mike helped rig the boats, ran some of the biggest white water in North America, rescued more than one wrecked craft and crew, and flipped flapjacks in a hundred Canyon kitchens. His love of fast water and canyon walls sent him down rivers in Africa, Chile, Mexico and across the Southwest. He was also passionate about scuba diving, snorkeling and beachcombing on the Sea of Cortez in San Carlos. Well into his 80's, Mike found joy in that blue water with his mask, fins and snorkel, spotting a Cortez angelfish or moray eel. Mike was also many other things: notoriously fast driver of fast cars, cutthroat cribbage player, Green Bay Packers and Fighting Irish fan, adventurous traveler, and climber of Mt. Kilimanjaro (performing a wedding ceremony on the summit). He loved his home on Tucson's west side, the Sonoran desert, backyard wildlife, Tahiti, wine, racquetball, dancing, poetry, and steak, but only if served rare. Even with his huge list of professional and personal accomplishments, Mike's most treasured roles were as a loving and thoughtful husband, supportive and protective single dad to his three sons, playful and open-hearted grandfather, and generous and loyal friend. He had a huge heart and an exceptionally loving and generous spirit. His family and friends were everything to him, and he was our rock. He was a man of great intelligence, wit, irreverence, charm, creativity and seemingly endless vitality, who was blessed with beautiful blue eyes, a wonderful smile and a wicked sense of humor. Predeceased by wife, Anna Brown in 1975 and sister, Sheila Warner in 1995, he is survived by his wife of 18 years, Nancy Patania Brown; sons, Michael (Sariya), Kevin (Susan) and Brian and grandchildren, Madeleine, Macey, Merik, Cally and Sean, all of Tucson; sister, Kelli (Tom) Fallbach of Sedalia, Colorado and many other dear and heartbroken loved ones. Instead of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Grand Canyon Trust or the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. A celebration of life will be scheduled in mid November. Arrangements by ADAIR FUNERAL HOMES, Dodge Chapel.
Published in the Arizona Daily Star on Sept. 30, 2018
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