With a doctorate in economics, self-taught editing and layout skills and unwavering support of his wife’s dream, Lorenzo Brown co-founded a women’s magazine about black entertainers that survived the ups and downs of publishing for 26 years.
Mr. Brown grew up in Evanston, earned a doctorate at Stockholm University and became president and managing editor of Sister 2 Sister magazine. He died Aug. 21 of multiple myeloma in Maryland, said his wife, Jamie Foster Brown, the magazine’s publisher. He was 73.
Their magazine focused on celebrity romances and breakups, fashion, beauty and health and affirming articles on African-American leaders. Until industry pressure made the couple decide to fold the magazine last year, it was a place where a Braxton sister or a “Real Housewife” or a sports star could tell their side of the story.
“People would come to Jamie to clear up exaggerations, or lies, or feuds or beefs people were claiming on the internet,” said her sister, former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Stella Foster.
The Browns’ romance started in the cafeteria at Roosevelt University and took them all over Europe. They spent the beginning of their 46-year-marriage in Sweden while Mr. Brown pursued a doctorate in economics. Befriending other expatriates, they were introduced to ethnic cuisines, new music and world politics.
Lorenzo Brown with his wife, Jamie Foster Brown. | Provided photo
“You had every kind of person,” Jamie Foster Brown said. “Friday night would be the Haitians, the Ecuadorians and the Africans. They’d all be at our house and I’m cooking, we’re all dancing. Then Saturday, we’d go over to the Africans’ house, and there’s more food and more dancing to African music. Then we’d go to the Cubans.”
She and “Renny” met Angolan rebels and men who chose to leave the U.S. military rather than fight in Vietnam. The deserters helped form a basketball team, the Stockholm Stars.
An accomplished cook, Jamie Foster Brown made soul food to raise money for the team. And a Swedish restaurant enlisted her to fill in for Margaret Wallace, sister of entertainer Josephine Baker, to create Southern food for diners, she said.
“We were traveling. We were hitchhiking. We were having kids. We were just having a ball,” Jamie Foster Brown said. In Sweden, she gave birth to their two sons, Randall and Russell.
Lorenzo Brown with his sons, Russell and Randall. | Provided photo
Though his family was from Marion, Alabama, his pregnant mother had to go elsewhere to find a hospital where she could give birth. “They wouldn’t allow ‘colored’ people to deliver babies in Marion, so his mother had to go to Selma,” his wife said. He went to Lincoln High School, the alma mater of many super-achievers, including a valedictorian named Coretta Scott. She went on to marry the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
His father, Claude Brown, died before his birth, trying to save someone from a fire, according to Mr. Brown’s wife. His mother, Mabel O’Neil Brown, moved to Evanston, where she sent money home from a cafeteria job while his aunts and sisters cared for him. Eventually, he joined her and graduated from Evanston Township High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Roosevelt and pursued a master’s at Syracuse University.
Returning to Alabama, he taught at Miles College, but his “big old Afro” and calls for civil rights made him more popular with students than administrators, his wife said.
Lorenzo Brown with Kandi Burruss (left) and Cynthia Bailey, of the reality show “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” and his wife, Jamie Foster Brown. | Provided photo
He was eating in Roosevelt’s cafeteria when Jamie Foster spotted him. “I sat down and I started talking,” she said. “He was so beautiful.”
Later, he told her his first thought upon seeing her: “Where have you been?”
They married in 1968. He was earning $400 a month as a professor, so he bought her ring in a pawnshop. A year later they moved to Sweden, where he received a master’s and doctorate.
Nine years later, they returned to the U.S. and settled in Maryland. He taught at Howard University and worked for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company.
In 1988, they founded Sister 2 Sister. “He had to teach himself magazine layout and had to go through these painstaking deadline nights,” said their son, Randall, who worked on the publication with his brother, Russell. “They worked so hard.”
Mr. Brown experienced a parent’s nightmare when Randall was a teenager. “A superior student and star basketball player,” he was nonetheless shot in a senseless crime, Stella Foster said, prompting her to write an attention-getting 1992 column on shootings in the African-American community. It ended with the line: “We made it through slavery. Why can’t we make it through freedom?”
“My father was there for me,” said Randall Brown, who recovered and graduated from Brown University. “He was just such a calming influence.”
Though an economist, Mr. Brown had a playful sense of humor, Randall Brown said.
Some of the magazine’s articles had titles such as, “Isaac Hayes Loves Women with Hairy Legs,” and, on the grill-wearing rapper Juvenile, “How Does He Clean His Teeth?”
Lorenzo Brown (right) with rapper/actor/producer T.I. | Provided photo
Mr. Brown enjoyed listening to Joel Osteen broadcasts. He shopped for vegetables at Costco, because despite his best gardening efforts, deer and groundhogs gobbled up most of his corn and carrots.
He is also survived by his sisters, Octavia Harriston, Edna Russell and Geraldine Williams. Services were held Monday night at Zion Church in Landover, Maryland.