Thursday, December 7, 2023

Clayton Brown dies at age 95

by Con Marshall

One of the most prominent persons born and raised in Chadron, Clayton F. Brown, died at age 95 on October 17 at his residence in the Chicago suburb of Carol Stream, Ill.

His firm, Clayton Brown and Associates, became a national leader in buying and selling public securities.  A recent story in the Chicago Tribune  said it sold for $25 million in 1994 to what became Dain Bosworth, a huge brokerage and investment banking establishment.


A 1945 graduate of Chadron High School and a student at Chadron State College both before and after serving two years in the Navy, Brown never forgot his hometown.  For one thing, he married a Chadron High classmate, Charlotte Pascoe, who became the Chadron State homecoming queen in 1948. They were married in 1950 and for years afterwards periodically returned to visit friends and relatives.

He also was a devout Christian. The verse, Romans 12:11, “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” was written on the wall of his home office in Chicago.  He also held leadership roles in several large Christian organizations and supported those endeavors financially.


In addition, Brown used his business acumen and good fortune to bolster Chadron State improvement projects several times, including the renovation of Elliott Field twice and what is now known as the CSC Math Science Center of Innovative Learning in recent years. The couple was presented the college’s Distinguished Service Award in 2002.


Prior to that he had been a member of the national leadership committee that was organized to renovate the Elliott Field stadium. The Browns contributed $50,000 toward that project.

He noted then that he was very familiar with Elliott Field. He had played quarterback there both while attending Chadron High, which did not have its own field at the time, and as a freshman at Chadron State in the fall of 1945. That’s when Coach Ross Armstrong was intent on reviving the football program that had been abandoned for the previous two years because of World War II.

Brown recalled that he was on the field every minute of all four games the Eagles played (and lost) in ’45. There were fewer than 20 players on the team and several of them had not played high school football. 

He also was an excellent high school basketball player.   There were three Brown cousins—Clayton, Tom and Neil—all of them seniors, who started on the 1944-45 Cardinals that finished with a 21-6 record. One of the losses was by a 32-30 score to Sidney in the finals of the District Tournament.  The Maroons, as they were known then, went on to win the Class B championship at the State Tournament. Chadron is ranked No. 5 in the class in the book, “Nebraska High School Sports.” published in 1980.

When Brown turned 18 in January 1946, he left college and joined the Navy. After a two-year hitch, he returned to Chadron State in 1948. By then the football roster was loaded with grizzled war veterans, but he played enough as the third-team quarterback to letter again.

At that time, Chadron State was almost exclusively a teacher-training institution.  Thus, he transferred to the University of Colorado, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1952.  He also received a master’s degree in business from the University of Chicago in 1952.

In September 1952, Brown joined the Northern Trust Company in Chicago. He became vice president of the Bond Department and was employed there 15 years before founding his own firm. It initially had six employees and less than $100,000 in capital.  

When it was sold 42 years later, Clayton Brown and Associates had more than 160 employees and offices in Milwaukee, Detroit, New York, Dallas, Tallahassee and Miami, besides Chicago.  He was best known for his expertise in municipal bonds, but also branched out to include other bond products.

He was president of the Mutual Bond Club of America, national chairman of the Public Securities Association and a member of the district committee of the National Association Dealers, Inc.  The Chicago Tribune story, written by Bob Goldsborough, quoted a long-time employee as saying Brown sometimes held Bible studies in his office. A former senior vice president, Jim Couture, called Brown “a man who lived out his faith in everything he did.”

Culture also said Brown handled multimillion dollar transactions on the telephone, “and nobody ever doubted the integrity of the transaction that happened based on his word on the phone.”

Brown served on the boards of both Dallas Theological Seminary and the Navigators for 21`years, was a trustee of Wheaton College, a Christian institution in Chicago, and twice served as national chairman of Christian Business Men’s Committee.  The Browns attended the latter organization’s international meetings in foreign countries four times.

Brown said he was flattered in 2017 when Connie Rasmussen, representing the Chadron State Foundation, and Don Beebe, the CSC star pass receiver and an NFL player nine seasons, visited him. They told him about the drive to upgrade Elliott Field and the accompanying stadium that is named for Beebe.

Brown had not known about the project, but as they were leaving he told his visitors he’d “think and pray about becoming involved.”  Before long, his answer was “Yes,” in the form of $250,000.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Chadron and Chadron State College,” Brown said when contacted about his gift. “I appreciate what the college is doing. It provides a good, respectable education at a price people can afford. The Lord gave me peace about making the gift. I believe it meets the criteria of ‘every good work’ that is found in II Corinthians 9:8. 

We began our firm to represent Christ in the marketplace,” Brown added. “God is good. We were blessed.  This is the first significant contribution I have made that is not connected with spreading the gospel. I know Chadron State needs to keep up-to-date with its athletic facilities and I hope the fund-raising efforts are successful.

Ben Watson, chief executive director of the Chadron State Foundation, said Brown’s gift for the football facility upgrade actually totaled about $350,000 and that he also contributed to the Math and Science project after that.   

Brown once noted that even though he attended CSC only two years, many of his closest lifelong friends were ex-Eagles.  “There’s something about playing football together that is really special,” he explained.   Brown said he made the contribution in memory of his mother, an aunt and his wife, all Chadron State graduates.  He added, Charlotte “went to glory,” three years ago, or in 2014.

The couple had four children.  Clayton’s younger brother, the late Ron Brown, popularly known as “Speck,” also was a starter on excellent football and basketball teams at Chadron High in the mid- 1950s.