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Sheriff’s Office mourns death of first Black Deputy Johnny “JB” Brown

by WayneTimes.com
August 29, 2021

Johnny T. “JB” Brown had an extraordinary life - to say the least. Born in 1935, he  was one of the original Harlem Globetrotters in the late 1950s and early 1960s when he played professionally in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

After retiring from his sports career, Johnny moved to Lyons, NY  in the late 1960s. There Wayne County Sheriff  Jim Hurley saw a future for Brown and hired him as the first Black deputy in Wayne County. “ I believe he was the first Black police officer ever hired in Wayne County,” quipped Hurley.

Most of Johnny’s career was as a  corrections officer at the Wayne County Jail. Hurley described Johnny as a “Very, very good officer, dedicated to his job. He got along well with the prisoners”.

Of course, when it came to the  Wayne County Sheriff’s Office basketball  team at the time, Hurley tapped the former pro for a number of charity games throughout the community.

Jim recalled the time when he and a number of  deputies went winter smelt fishing on Lake Ontario. “We all had waders for the cold water, but Johnny did not have a pair. I lent him a pair of hip boots. We were onshore and built a fire to cook what we had caught, but Johnny was missing. There he was hip deep in water trying to get some smelt for home. He got soaked in the water way up to his hips.”

Johnny served the County from 1969 until his retirement in 1990. “I wish I had more like him,” added Hurley.

Sheriff Barry Virts said he had the good fortune to have John for his training officer as a corrections officer in 1977. “He was meticulous in his documentation, appearance, and had a great sense of humor. He was proud to be working in the Sheriff’s Office. This was evident when I visited his wife, Marleen. There was an entire wall of plaques, pictures and accomplishments”, said Barry.

Sheriff Virts added that Officer Brown also advocated for more African-American recruits over the years. He was just a wonderful good guy.” 

John ‘Johnny’ Brown passed away on August 20, 2021, at the age of 86. He leaves a wife of 25 years, Marleen Welch Brown. Johnny also had five children; sixteen grandchildren; two step-children; three step-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Services were held on Saturday, August 28 at 1:00 PM at the Newark Cemetery, North Main Street, with Pastor Frank Comer Officiating.

Donations can be made to Lifetime Hospice Care, 800 West Miller Street, Newark, NY 14513 in memory of Johnny.

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