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Robert "Buck" Brown

Cartoonist and painter, Robert “Buck” Brown was born Bobby Brown on February 3, 1936 in the “Browntown” suburb of Morrison, Tennessee. His parents, Doris Lemmings Brown and WPA worker Michael Fate Brown, separated when Brown was five years old. Moving to Chicago, Brown attended A.O. Sexton Elementary School and Englewood High School. At Englewood, Brown placed second in an art contest where the winner was sculptor, Richard Hunt. Brown graduated from Englewood High School in 1954. In 1955, Brown joined the United States Air Force and gained notoriety for his cartoons. By 1958, Brown was attending art classes at Wilson Junior College, driving a Chicago Transit Authority bus and sketching the dramas of everyday life. Attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Brown submitted his cartoons to various publications, and one was accepted by Hugh Hefner of Playboy magazine in 1961. Brown graduated with a B.F.A. degree in 1966.

After nearly fifty years, Brown was best known for his cartoons painted in acrylic colors. His famous naughty "Granny" became a permanent fixture in Playboy magazine. Brown, whose fame came at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, drew more white characters than black ones. However, Brown often depicted establishment types, like the U.S. Cavalry besieged by Indians or other people of color.

Brown not only made a name for himself as a cartoonist but also as a painter of humorous paintings. Some of his paintings were part of Bill and Camille Cosby’s art collection. Another celebrity singer, Johnny Mathis, had a wall in his office covered with Brown’s golf cartoons. His cartoons and illustrations had also appeared in Ebony, Ebony Junior, Jet and Esquire magazines.

Brown passed away on Monday, July 2, 2007 at age 71.

Accession Number

A2007.022

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/20/2007

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Austin O. Sexton Elementary School

Englewood High School

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Kennedy–King College

Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Morrison

HM ID

BRO41

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/3/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Death Date

7/2/2007

Short Description

Painter and cartoonist Robert "Buck" Brown (1936 - 2007 ) was well-known for his "Granny" cartoon, which appeared in Playboy magazine. His other works ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebony, Jet, The New Yorker and other publications.

Employment

Playboy

Chicago Transit Authority

U.S. Air Force

Ebony, Jr.

Dollars & Sense Magazine

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert "Buck" Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert "Buck" Brown lists his favorites, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert "Buck" Brown lists his favorites, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert "Buck" Brown talks about his relationship with Alex Haley

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his family's work

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his childhood in Morrison, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls listening to the radio with his paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert "Buck" Brown talks about haints in Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers his early interest in drawing

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his father's service in World War I

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his parents' marriage and separation

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers the segregated South Side of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers listening to the radio with his brother

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers Chicago's Austin O. Sexton Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls Englewood High School, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his artwork in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls Englewood High School, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers working with Hugh Hefner at Playboy magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers living on his own from sixteen years old

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers his decision to join the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls racial discrimination in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls racial discrimination in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers leaving the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls drawing a caricature of his commanding officer, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls drawing a caricature of his commanding officer, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers working for the Chicago Transit Authority, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert "Buck" Brown remembers working for the Chicago Transit Authority, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls attending Chicago's Woodrow Wilson Junior College

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls how he began working for Playboy magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his style of painting for Playboy

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert "Buck" Brown recalls attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert "Buck" Brown talks about why he left Playboy magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert "Buck" Brown reflects upon his retirement from Playboy magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes the creation of the Granny comic strip

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert "Buck" Brown reflects upon the reception of his cartoons, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert "Buck" Brown reflects upon the reception of his cartoons, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes racial discrimination in the cartoon industry, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes racial discrimination in the cartoon industry, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his work with Ebony Jr.! magazine

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his work under affirmative action

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert "Buck" Brown reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert "Buck" Brown reflects upon the career of artist Leroy Neiman

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert "Buck" Brown reflects upon his body of work

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert "Buck" Brown reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert "Buck" Brown talks about his favorite cartoonists

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes his family

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Robert "Buck" Brown reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Robert "Buck" Brown describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Robert "Buck" Brown narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$6

DAStory

2$1

DATitle
Robert "Buck" Brown talks about haints in Tennessee
Robert "Buck" Brown describes racial discrimination in the cartoon industry, pt. 1
Transcript
Oh, I was telling you earlier when, when the haint story that would always get (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, your brother's [Howard (ph.)] haints, yeah, that one, yeah.$$No, no, no, no, this, this--I, I really don't, I can't identify who it was, but somebody was sick. And somebody went up to see about him. And they got there and everything was dark. It was dark outside, it was dark inside. And so, they struck a match to light this candle, and something blew it out. And, you know, I'm under the cover saying, "Oh Lord." And they struck another match, lit the candle, and something blew it out. Say, "I'm going to light one more match, and if he blew this out, I'm gone," and, sure enough, blew it out. And I said, "Oh, Lord," and, you know, being young and frightened, this scared me to death. It was always something like that.$$Look, it's real dark out in the woods, right, out in the country?$$Oh, that's where they invented dark. We went up to McMinnville [Tennessee] to a fair, you know, a little jive thing what, you'd hit the bottle, throw a ball at the bottles and stuff. And I, I went out with my uncle who had a truck. He had so many kids, that's what he needed to carry them in. But we was asking him, having a good time, said, "Well, we'd better go." So, we drive back with the wind blowing and stuff like that. And we get about a third of a mile from my grandma's house, and I'm waiting for him to turn to go up by grandma's house. And he's--my uncle hollers, hollers back, "See you later, Bobby [HistoryMaker Robert "Buck" Brown]." I said, "What?" I had to get down on that road. I could just barely see the difference between the dust and the, the weeds and stuff, and knowing that I, I was in a rattlesnake valley. And so, I'm tiptoeing, and that wasn't good enough, so I finally broke into a full run, and didn't stop until I got to grandma's house. That gave me a, a description of terror, very, very dark. And yet, you know, we'd be sitting on a front bench some nights, and you hear somebody coming out of the road whistling, you know, singing, and--$$Can you see much by moonlight in that kind of situation? When the moon is full, can you see anything?$$I imagine you can. And if you got things on your mind, other than, you know, snakes, I, you know, I know they get snakes down there 'cause I remember as a--well, before I came to Chicago [Illinois], we were going to a festival at Vervilla [Tennessee] I think the name of it is. And I was riding on the mule with my dad [Michael Brown], and Uncle Doc [Doc Brown (ph.)] had his mule and stuff like that. And everybody stopped, and here's the biggest rattlesnake you'd ever want to see in the middle of the road. So, my uncle got off his mule and got a big, big pole, and did him in. Now, this is early in the morning. And on the way back that night, the, the rattlesnake's tail was still switching, you know, I guess, the nerves and impulses and stuff. And that has always terrified me. That land down here is, is laying fallow, you know. Everybody got up and went north and stuff like that, and moved to town, or what have you. As a matter of fact, we went through there last year. And I counted five or six deer. And I'd never seen deer down there at any time. So, you know, it's, it's going back a while. So, I know, I know the rattlesnakes are going, "Come here, Bobby, come here, come here (laughter)."$$(Laughter).$You were saying that there's, believe it or not, there's racism in the cartoon business?$$Yeah (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, okay.$$I don't, you know, it's not a mean, spiteful thing where it, they look up, and see that you're a boo-boo, and change this thing. They eliminated the characters in my comic strip--just kept the two soul brothers. And, but somebody told me that they were trying to get the syndicate acclimated to where they could sell my strip to the little tiny out-of-the-way, the boonies, and stuff like that. So, you could make five dollars a month off, off of them if you were lucky. So, you know, there wasn't, there wasn't, you, you weren't going to make it as, as a black Jim Davis or a Charles Schulz [Charles M. Schulz]. And so, I couldn't get it to the point where they liked it any longer. And so, one night, we decided to call it a day. And I was tickled to death because, you know, it was driving me up the wall, you know, 'cause I had to be more than what I was, you know. And I was raising hell when it started out. So, I ran into the president a couple of years after, up in Milwaukee [Wisconsin], at a cartoonist get-together. In fact, we were in the same golf cart together.$$Now, who is this, the--$$Mike Cargeria [ph.].$$Okay.$$He was the head of the Tribune Syndicate [Chicago Tribune Syndicate] at the time. And we, finally, after we warmed up and loosened up and stuff, we talk, started talking about it. And I said, "Mike, you know, it don't matter whether I'm pink, purple, or polka dot. I create so much humor in my life. I just want to be able to use that, you know, to, to get something going. I don't have to do a black strip or, you know, or do something about Eskimos. Just let me be funny." He kept saying, "Send me something." So, you know, the newsstands on the corner, the guy selling papers and magazine--okay, I had a little guy who, at one of these newsstands, and he got the newspapers on the front and (unclear). And he deals with the traffic coming in four different direction, and all the different people and stuff, and it worked as far as I was concerned. So, I did it up, Xeroxed it, and sent it off to them. They got it on a Monday. I had return mail Thursday and Friday again. Said, "Buck [HistoryMaker Robert "Buck" Brown], we took your latest submission, passed it around, and we all loved it. And we all agreed to amend that it would work better if it was black." I said, oh, Lord. So, at the time, I had a American Staffordshire Terrier. I kicked him up and down the right path about three weeks, you know, saying, why can't I just be funny? But then, you know, I said, "Well, hey," me and the devil were talking about this. So, I said, "If I want to be a syndicated cartoonist, have something to do every day. I guess I had to make the character black."