City says farewell to Brown

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Hundreds of friends and colleagues gathered at the Natchez Convention Center Monday to honor Walter Brown, who is retiring as attorney for the City of Natchez after 24 years.

&8220;His service will be reflected in what we have done in the past, what we&8217;re doing now and what we will do in the future,&8221; said Natchez Mayor Phillip West. &8220;I know there will be times I will automatically reach for the phone to call him, I will have to have his expertise.&8221;

Brown said the gala event, with a large orchestra, tables filled with food and the large room filled with people, gave him reason to pause and think about how quickly his years in public service have passed.

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Pictures flashed on an oversize screen in one corner of the room, showing Brown and his family as he was growing up in Natchez and moving through stages of his life.

&8220;Quite frankly, it just feels like yesterday that I was thinking about running for the Legislature,&8221; he said. &8220;And 39 years later, here we are.&8221;

Brown was elected to the state Legislature in 1967 and served as a state representative until 1980. In 1979, he was appointed to the Mississippi Ethics Commission and was appointed chairman of that board in 1982, a position he still holds.

Under Mayor Tony Byrne&8217;s administration, Brown was appointed city attorney in 1983. Byrne, one of the first guests to arrive at the reception, said Brown was above all &8220;a stickler for details and obeying the law.&8221;

&8220;The city is going to miss that great asset of the knowledge he has,&8221; said Byrne, mayor from 1968 to 1988.

Woody Allen, chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Development Authority, was Brown&8217;s first student page in the Legislature. Since then, his association with the city attorney has been in many capacities.

&8220;I think he&8217;s done a tremendous job,&8221; Allen said. &8220;He is a great mediator. He is firm and knowledgeable and will tell you the facts but will try to make things happen within the limits of the law.&8221;

Natchez CPA Billy Gillon also has known Brown for 40 years or more &8212; &8220;since I moved to Natchez,&8221; he said.

Gillon said Brown&8217;s area of expertise is government law. &8220;He knew how things needed to be done, and he did a good job for the city.&8221;

State Rep. Sam Mims of McComb, whose District 97 includes part of Adams County, has known Brown only three years.

&8220;I met him during my campaign in 2003, and I learned quickly that he had a knowledge not only of city but state government,&8221; Mims said.

&8220;He has helped with legislation and bills that have benefited Adams County.

Brown&8217;s sister, Rosilyn Adams, who is one year older, said she felt proud of her brother but that was nothing new.

&8220;I know him so well and admire his love for Natchez, which I share,&8221; Adams said. &8220;This is a special day. He&8217;s truly remarkable.&8221;

As the family pictures changed on the big screen, Adams reminisced about their parents, the late Jake and Rose Brown.

&8220;If you knew our mother and daddy &8212; Walter has this wonderful combination of them. He has diplomacy and tact. And the one thing you&8217;ll always hear him say is, &8216;You do something because it&8217;s the right thing to do.&8217;&8221;

Their younger sister, Carolyn Guckert, lives in Raleigh, N.C., and could not come for the party. Adams said she called to say, &8220;I&8217;m so proud of you, my big brother, and I&8217;ll be with you in spirit.&8221;

Mayor West praised the retiring attorney&8217;s patience and intellectual capacity.

And he said Brown has &8220;to a certain extent outlasted us all, and I mean that in a kind and a generous way. It&8217;s unusual for someone to last so long in public life. He&8217;s a walking encyclopedia of the city.&8221;

Brown said when he announced his retirement that he wants to spend more time on his private law practice, which he began in 1965.

He is board attorney for Natchez Regional Medical Center and will continue in that position.