WHO'S WHO - GEORGE R. BROWN & HERMAN BROWN
They didn't live by a rule book. Their actions were to "always do the right thing at the right time." That is how Isabelle Wilson described the philosophy of her late father, George R. Brown (top) and his late brother Herman Brown (bottom), founder of the Houston-based construction and engineering firm, Brown & Root.
Born in Belton, Texas, the two men chose different paths in life. Herman, six years older, went to work for a contractor in Belton. When his employer went bankrupt, Herman accepted some mules in lieu of wages. In 1919, with the mules and the financial support of his brother-in-law Dan Root, a prosperous cotton farmer from Central Texas, he formed Brown & Root Inc.
While Herman was trying his hand at entrepreneurship, George graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1922 and joined the Marines during the last stage of World War I. After the war, George traveled to Butte, Mont., then returned to Texas to join ranks with his brother in Brown & Root. In 1929, Dan Root passed away and George became an official partner.
Herman ran the company, making day-to-day decisions, while George was in charge of marketing. The brothers started out paving dirt roads and building bridges for municipal and county governments, but they yearned for bigger projects. Their opportunity came in 1937, when newly elected Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson helped the brothers secure construction of the Marshall Ford Dam on the Colorado River, since renamed the Mansfield Dam. The project not only turned a profit for the Browns but also resulted in supplying electricity to Johnsonís impoverished constituents in the hill country.
The endeavor led to bigger and better projects. In turn, the Browns backed Johnsonís political ambitions financially and politically. The Washington Post quoted George as saying, "We always believed in good government and keeping good people in office. Those things go hand and hand. Thereís a place for both."
In 1940, Brown & Root became the head contractor in charge of building the colossal Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. The Navy base became a $100 million undertaking. In addition to construction, the company participated in shipbuilding during World War II, doing an additional $350 million in work for the Navy.
By 1950, Brown & Root evolved into one of the largest construction and engineering firms in the world. Projects included complete jobs in Guam, Spain, the United Kingdom, Iran, and the Persian Gulf.
After the death of his older brother in 1962, George sold the company to Halliburton Inc. He became chairman of the board until his retirement and remained as a consultant. He also held his position with the Texas Eastern Corp., a natural gas company he and Herman had founded. Herman and George, together with their wives, founded the Brown Foundation. Through the foundation, more than $381 million has been granted to charitable institutions, mainly in areas of education and the arts.
After George Brown passed away in 1983, family friend Elinor McCollum said he was "one of the greatest men in the world. He is one of the most humanitarian and generous men through his philanthropies that I have ever known."