Ernest Owen Brown, a retired Baltimore surgeon who was one of the early African-American graduates of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, died of heart failure June 8 at Seasons Hospice at Northwest Hospital Center. He was 81.
Born in Baltimore, one of 11 children of a longshoreman, Dr. Brown settled in Severna Park with his family.
In an unpublished biographical sketch, Dr. Brown wrote that the first school he attended was Pumphrey Elementary School.
"It was a two-room clapboard and shaker shingle structure with outdoor privies."
He attended Wiley H. Bates High School in Annapolis, where he played varsity baseball and football.
It was the "only high school in the county for Negroes," he wrote.
After graduating from high school in 1945, he attended Iowa State University before entering what is now Morgan State University in 1948.
He studied biology and premedicine courses at Morgan, from which he graduated with honors in 1952.
Dr. Brown wrote that his application to attend the University of Maryland medical school was "part of civil rights organizations' efforts to integrate that institution."
In 1951, the University of Maryland medical school admitted its first two African-American students, Donald W. Stewart and Roderick E. Charles.
Dr. Brown was the third African-American graduate of the medical school, and after earning a degree in 1956, he completed an internship at Cambridge Hospital in Cambridge, Mass.
From 1957 to 1959, he served as a captain in the Air Force at Plattsburgh Air Force Base in upstate New York, where he was a general medical officer, assistant base surgeon, base psychiatrist and director of outpatient services.
Determined to become a surgeon, Dr. Brown began searching for a residency program in surgery that would accept African-Americans.
Dr. Joseph M. Miller Sr., a World War II combat surgeon who was chief of surgery from 1946 until 1971 at what is now Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center, agreed to teach "colored residents," Dr. Brown wrote.
He completed his residency with Dr. Miller in 1963 and was certified the next year by the American Board of Surgery.
In 1965, Dr. Brown, Dr. Stewart, an internist, and Dr. Louis L. Randall, an obstetrician and gynecologist who was the fourth African-American to graduate from Maryland, purchased a building at Garrison Boulevard and Duvall Avenue, where they established their practices.
"In 1967, we moved to Garrison Boulevard and Gwynns Falls Parkway when we built Garwyn Medical Center," Dr. Randall said.
"We were friends and colleagues for 56 years, and he was an excellent physician and surgeon," said Dr. Randall, who retired 12 years ago. "He treated all kinds of patients, whether they were homeless or had HIV, without regard to remuneration. He was a very community-oriented physician."
In addition to his private surgical practice, Dr. Brown was also an attending surgeon at Sinai Hospital, Maryland General Hospital, Baltimore County General Hospital (now Northwest Hospital Center), North Charles General Hospital and the old Provident Hospital, where he had been president of the medical staff.
"He was a very compassionate man, and the patients loved him," said Dr. Stewart. "Even today, even though he's been retired for several years, I still have patients ask how Dr. Brown is doing."
From 1965 to 1986, Dr. Brown also was a consultant to the Social Security Administration's medical disabilities office in Woodlawn.
After retiring in 1994, he worked as a medical consultant to the Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene.
His professional memberships included the American College of Surgeons, Monumental City Medical Society, Maryland Medical and Chirurgical Society and the Baltimore City Medical Society.
He was a lifetime active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
A longtime Forest Park resident, Dr. Brown enjoyed writing poetry and was a frequent letters to the editor contributor on local, national and international events. He also enjoyed playing bridge and pinochle.
Dr. Brown was a member of Epworth United Methodist Church in Gwynn Oak, where services were held Monday.
Surviving are his Morgan College sweetheart and wife of 52 years, the former Lorraine Gravatt; two daughters, Carla A. Taliaferro of Milford Mill and Wanda M. Brown of Woodlawn; five brothers, Jerome Brown of Glen Burnie, Thomas Brown and Louis Brown, both of Pasadena, Arnold Brown of Boston, and Charles Brown of Austin, Texas; two sisters, Janice Brown and Edna Brown, both of Severna Park; and two grandsons. Another daughter, Deborah Lynn Brown, died in 1994.