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Edgar G. Brown: Lobbyist, Union President, and Tennis Champion

Edgar G. Brown relaxing on his lawn, 1938

Edgar George Brown was a lobbyist, founder of the National Negro Council, and ran twice for congress in Illinois. Brown was also president of the United Government Employees Union, and he was a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet.” Born in 1898 in Sandoval, Illinois, Brown was the oldest of eight children. After serving in the military during World War 1, Brown returned to Illinois to finish his education at Northwestern University. He graduated with a degree in economics and business and he got a job as an advertising manager in Indianapolis. Brown went on to work at the Standard News in St. Louis as an editor and then moved to Washington D.C. to work as an administrative assistant and editor for the Federal Security Agency. Brown’s brother in law was President Roosevelt’s valet, and Brown used this connection to get a job with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). While working for the CCC, Brown used his influence to fight for improved conditions for African American CCC workers, and was President of the United Government Employees Union. As President of the Union, Brown helped eradicate the photograph requirements necessary to take a civil service test, and he also acquired automatic promotions for custodians working for the federal government.

Petition drawn up by the National Negro Council, 1949

Later in his life Brown founded the National Negro Council, a political lobbying group. Despite being a controversial institution, Brown and the National Negro Council were able to make significant gains such as using petitions to help remove dishonorable politicians from office. Brown used unorthodox means to broadcast his views such as soap box speeches on street corners and driving around in his car with a loudspeaker. Besides his political activism, Brown was a Four-time singles champion of the American Tennis Association and was co-founder and President of the National Lawn Tennis Association. Edgar Brown passed away in 1954.

Images from the Edgar G. Brown papers. Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.

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