John Y. Brown, Sr.
Class of 1921
John Y. Brown, Sr., was a prominent Kentucky trial lawyer and politician, whose career spanned in politics spanned 50 years: he served one term as a U.S. Congressman and was elected to six terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives, serving as House Speaker in the 1932 session and as majority floor leader in the 1966 session. He was a consistent advocate of better schools, a crusader against the death penalty, an active supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, and a friend of organized labor. In later years he pursued an interest in the problems of the elderly. His son, John Y. Brown, Jr., would serve as governor of Kentucky.
Born February 1, 1900, to tenant farmers Jesse and Lucy Brown in rural Union County, Brown reported early aspirations to a political career. The first member of his family to attend college, he recalled that when his father went to the bank to borrow $50 for his tuition at the University of Kentucky, the banker told him that the outstanding men of the state came from Centre, so he borrowed $75 instead and sent Brown to Danville. While working his way through Centre, Brown was a member of the football, track, and debating teams, joined the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, and was elected to the Omicron Delta Kappa honorary leadership society. He attended law school at the University of Kentucky.
In 1970 Brown wrote a book, The Legend of the Praying Colonels, which chronicled Centre's famous football era of 1917 to 1924.