Mr. Kenyon Camper, a member of Ezion-Mt. Carmel UMC sends a Christmas card each year that celebrates the accomplishments of a famous African American. This year features the picture of a statue of Clifford B. Brown, Sr. who was a jazz trumpeter. I went on the internet and learned about his life on the Wikipedia website. He was born in Wilmington, Delaware on October 20, 1930. At the age of 10 he began playing the trumpet. His first trumpet teacher was Boysie Lowery and he played in a jazz group that Lowery organized. He graduated from Howard High School, attended Delaware State University and later switched to Maryland state College. He quickly became a professional trumpeter and performed with many great bands of his day. His trumpet playing had a strong sense of harmony and a warm and mellow tone.
One of the things that struck me the most about his life was that he did not get involved with drugs or alcohol. In an article about him in the Washington Post (June 26, 2006) writer Matt Schudel noted “Brown refused to use drugs and his quiet example had begun to change the reprobate image of musicians for whom booze and heroin were a part of the jazz life.”
He demonstrated character by refusing to get involved with chemical dependencies. I am sure that not only the musicians around him were affected by his abstinence. I imagine that many young people looked up to him as a role model as well. He was not swayed by the crowd but he lived by his principles.
The Apostle Paul reminds us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). Clifford Brown did just that and his legacy of musical excellence and moral uprightness is an example for all.
Tragically he died at the age of 25 in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He was described as “a shooting star…he’s there, and he’s gone.” He continues to live on in the hearts of many who heard him perform and in his recordings. I celebrate Black History month as I remember the good life of Clifford Brown.