LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

The Passing of a Legend

Dr. Charlie Brown

Dr. Charlie Brown, Emeritus Professor of Public Health, died over the weekend. Though he lived a long and very full life, it was way too soon. Charlie made his mark on this earth, and his life clearly demonstrates the power of one--how much of a difference one person can truly make. Read on to learn more about his exemplary life.

Charles Lafayette Brown, Jr., MD

Surrounded by his family, Charles Lafayette Brown, Jr., MD, 87, passed away due to respiratory failure on January 14, 2017, at his home in New Orleans. He was born September 22, 1929 in New Orleans to Charles Lafayette Brown, Sr., MD, formerly of Beaumont, TX, and Mary Elizabeth Bolton Brown, formerly of Alexandria, LA. His parents and sister, Marilyn Brown Cummings of Mobile, Alabama, preceded him in death.

Dr. Brown, affectionately known as “Charlie,” had a storied career, touching lives from many walks and leaving a legacy that will continue to affect the health and well-being of generations to come. A 1953 graduate of Tulane University, Charlie also earned his medical degree at Tulane, in 1955. He was board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, and he took care of patients in his private practice in New Orleans from 1961-1998.

For 32 years, Charlie was also the New Orleans Saints Team Physician. At the time of his retirement from the Saints, Dr. Brown was the longest-serving team physician in National Football League (NFL) history. He was President of the National Football League Physicians Society. In 1988, Charlie helped to write the newly developed and critically important "Drugs of Abuse and Alcohol Policy" for the NFL. He served on the NFL Commissioner’s Advisory Committee on Drugs of Abuse and Alcohol as a full member until 2009, and then in 2014 at the age of 84, was invited to resume full membership of this important NFL committee.

“Dr. Charles Brown proudly served as the Saints’ team doctor from the inception of the club through the 1999 season and provided impeccable care to the thousands of players that played for the team for over three decades. He had a wonderful manner about him and was the epitome of a true professional,” said the New Orleans Saints through a statement.

The NFL was but one sports organization that benefitted from Charlie’s skill as a doctor. He took care of many leading professional athletes in other sports as well, including serving as ringside physician to World Heavyweight Champion boxer Riddick Bowe and serving as the Team Physician for the New Orleans Jazz until the team moved to Utah.

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Sports were what initially interested then LSU Medical Center Chancellor Dr. Merv Trail in recruiting Charlie. He appointed Charlie as Professor of Clinical Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Professor of Medicine and Head of the Center for Sports Performance, Fitness and Wellness at LSU Medical Center (now Health Sciences Center) in 1998. It was then that Charlie began devoting his talents more and more to health promotion, as well, and this took several paths.
Charlie on the Walk to Wellness
“My ‘partner in crime,’ as Charlie liked to call himself, Dr. Charles Brown was instrumental to the integration of nutrition and exercise science into medical school education,” says Melinda Sothern, PhD, LSU Health New Orleans Professor of Public Health and internationally recognized pediatric obesity researcher. “His efforts were vital to raising the awareness of physicians nationwide to the importance of healthy nutrition and regular exercise to the prevention and management of chronic diseases, such as obesity and related illnesses, especially in young people.”

Charlie developed the “Wellness Place” for the faculty, students and staff of the Health Sciences Center and the Walk to Wellness that encourages physical activity and prevention of obesity, tobacco use and improved diet. Charlie also led the efforts to establish the Jim Finks Endowed Chair in Health Promotion at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health, which provides research funding for students and graduate assistants, and helps to support the development of new projects for junior faculty, paving the way for innovative translational research into the social, behavioral, environmental, biological and molecular factors related to metabolic and inflammatory disease and the impact of exercise and nutrition to this process in children and adolescents. He also served on the Louisiana Obesity Task Force.

Beyond nutrition and physical activity, Charlie knew that one of the most effective ways to save lives being lost to cancer was to reduce the use of tobacco He has been called “a bed-rock of cancer prevention and control activities” whose interest in prevention was rooted in years of clinical practice devoted to treating often fatal cancers.

In 1982, he was appointed as the American Cancer Society representative to the Louisiana Cancer and Lung Trust Fund Board, which oversees the operation of the Louisiana Tumor Registry and funds research grants. He also served as the Board’s President. He remained the ACS representative to that Board for decades, and in that capacity, was instrumental in securing support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded statewide Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan and served on the Tobacco Control workgroup.

Charlie in Dr. Charlie Brown Library
"Dr. Charlie Brown was a quiet force," remembers Larry Hollier, MD, Chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans. "He had a knack for bringing out the best in people and the most genteel way of persuading them to help him achieve his goals. Through his tobacco cessation work, including driving the passage of Act 815, Louisiana's first statewide comprehensive smoke-free indoor air act, Charlie leaves a legacy of health."
The Clean Indoor Air Act limited smoking in public buildings and restaurants, including the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“Charles L. Brown, Jr., MD, was without question the leader in tobacco control advocacy in Louisiana for decades,” recalls Elizabeth Fontham, Dr.PH, Founding Dean and Emeritus Professor at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health. “In 2002, he was the lead advocate and spokesperson in the Louisiana Legislature for the Tobacco Coalition. These efforts resulted in a successful additional 12 cent/pack tax on cigarettes and the creation of the Louisiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program.”

His leadership enabled the first statewide Tobacco Summit in 2004. The first annual award in tobacco prevention was presented there, and that award is the Charles L. Brown Award. When the tobacco-tax funded Tobacco-Free Living Program was created, Charlie served as Chairman of the statewide Steering Committee and Director of the Tobacco Program reporting to the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium.

As a past member of the American Cancer Society Division Board of Directors and a longtime ACS volunteer, Charlie was a role model in advocacy. For his exemplary service, the American Cancer Society chose him as the the recipient of the prestigious 2007 St. George National Award – the highest recognition that can be given to an American Cancer Society volunteer.

Charlie was also named a Healthcare Hero by New Orleans CityBusiness in 2008 and a Peoples Health Champion in 2015.

Charlie also served as President of the New Orleans Academy of Internal Medicine, President of the New Orleans Chapter of the Leukemia Society, Inc. and Chairman of the New Orleans Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Although Charlie retired from LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health in 2012, he was named an Emeritus Professor, and his contributions to the education of future generations of public health professionals continued.

The expansive reach of Charlie’s efforts over the years cannot be measured. His dedication and passion for disease prevention through health promotion nationally and, especially in the state of Louisiana, resulted in major initiatives to improve public health through policy, research and education.

Dr. Charles L Brown, Jr.’s unparalleled role and effectiveness later in life in championing the public's health and advocating for healthy living in Louisiana cannot be underestimated.

A military veteran, he served as an army major from1957-59 in Augsburg, Germany.

While Charlie had many professional accomplishments, he was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed spending time in the North George Mountains later in life. His greatest joy was his family.

He is survived by his wife, Harriet Avery Brown of New Orleans; his children, Hyland Brown Justice (Husband Henry "Hal" Justice) of Atlanta, Georgia, Charles Lafayette Brown III, MD (Wife Katheryn Parker Brown) of Atlanta, Georgia, Marilyn Richardson Brown of Covington, Louisiana and Thomas Bolton Brown (Wife Katherine Merrill Brown) of New York, NY; his stepchildren, Elizabeth Springgate Jayasuriya (Husband Kumar Jayasuriya) of Silver Spring, Maryland, Benjamin Franklin Springgate MD (Wife Ashley Hansen Springgate) of New Orleans; and 11 grandchildren.

A public memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 21, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church, 7100 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. Visitation will begin at 12:00 noon. Burial, which will be private, is under the direction of Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to The Foundation for the LSU Health Sciences Center designated for the Charles L Brown, Jr., MD Professorship at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health. Donations may be made online at or sent to: The Foundation for the LSU Health Sciences Center, 2000 Tulane Avenue, 4th Floor New Orleans, LA 70112 Phone: (504) 568-3712.