Milton 'Big Daddy' Brown, 75, longtime a-rabber

March 26, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Milton "Big Daddy" Brown, who as a boy began his career as an a-rabber selling produce on Baltimore streets from a horse-drawn cart, died of a heart attack March 16 at Bon Secours Hospital. He was 75.

Mr. Brown also owned the horse stables off Retreat Street in West Baltimore -- an almost surreal inner-city setting where he boarded and cared for as many as 44 horses at a time. Goats, chickens and a mule also had the run of the yard.

"He was a premier horseman," said Leon Remner, a longtime friend who worked at the stables in the 1980s. "They were his life, at least a major part of his life."

Mr. Brown, a Baltimore native who lived in a small Southwest Baltimore rowhouse, belonged to a small group of men who consider a-rabbing an honored profession and consider horses the means for them to earn a living.

He was a regular sight at the Retreat Street stables, seldom missing a day. The horses depended on him, he frequently told friends.

"There was never a doubt of what was important to him in life -- the horses were always his love," said Beatrice Garland, a friend for 26 years. Souvenirs such as horseshoe ashtrays and plaques and snapshots of him at the stables fill the living room of their Shipley Hill home.

"Couldn't no one ever take his horses from him. That was always first with him," she said.

Mr. Brown bought the Retreat Street stables, a former slaughterhouse, in the mid-1980s. The stables were closed and the horses removed in 1994 because of structural problems. The stables were repaired and reopened the next year.

"His face just dropped when they came and took the animals," said Steven A. Blake, president of the A-rabber Preservation Society, of which Mr. Brown was a director. "He was just horse crazy and this really hurt him."

Mr. Brown attended city public schools and served in the Army during World War II. After he was discharged, he worked as a longshoreman and as an a-rab. He retired from the waterfront in 1986.

In his later years, Mr. Brown often sold produce from a truck, feeling that using a horse-drawn cart and walking alongside it was too tiring.

On Mondays for nearly the past two decades, Mr. Brown drove to the Amish country in New Holland, Pa., and bought dozens of eggs, most of which he gave to his pastor and fellow members of Central Baptist Church at 2035 W. Baltimore St., where he was a longtime member.

The Rev. Dr. Matthew G. Braxton, the pastor, said the church used the eggs for its Sunday breakfasts for members.

"He was just the nicest person you could know. He was always ready to help and lend a hand," Mr. Braxton said of Mr. Brown, who was an elder and trustee of the church. "Now when I walk into the church and don't see him, it disturbs me. It really does."

Services were held Friday.

He is survived by a daughter, Gloria Carroll of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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