Laura Mae Brown, 1917-2010

By Van Oteghen, Sharon | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, February 2011 | Go to article overview

Laura Mae Brown, 1917-2010

Van Oteghen, Sharon, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance

Laura Mae Brown, a service-oriented physical education professional, passed away at the age of 93 on May 13, 2010, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She served as president of the Missouri AHPER early on, as president of the Central District AHPER in 1968, and as president of the Alliance in 1971. Ms. Brown received a Central District Honor Award in 1960 and received the AAHPER Honor Award in 1974 (the "D" had not yet been added to AAHPERD's name). Laura Mae's commitment to service was far-reaching in that she assumed leadership positions not only in HPERD, but in other educational associations and numerous community organizations.


Born in Huntersville, North Carolina, Laura Mae's family moved to Sanford, Florida, when she was three years old. As a youngster she readily participated in physical activities such as swimming, softball, and tennis. Her parents instilled in her the southern traditions of being honest and forthright, doing one's best, and proceeding in another direction if initial choices didn't bring success.

After attending Montreat Junior College in Montreat, North Carolina, Laura Mae completed her undergraduate work in 1939 at Winthrop College in South Carolina, where she majored in physical education and minored in science. At Winthrop College she developed a strong background in the sciences and was exposed to excellent physical education teachers. Soon after graduating, she taught at Laurelhurst School in Portland, Oregon, and at the high school and junior college levels in Montreat, North Carolina. In 1950, Laura Mae earned an M.S. degree from Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied under Helen Manley and Gwendolyn Drew. Both professionals had high expectations for their students and served as role models for Ms. Brown.

Near the end of World War II, Laura Mae worked in a Red Cross club in England, where she and other Red Cross workers were responsible for club activities. When she was assigned to the harbor city of Bremerhaven, Germany, where some buildings had to be constructed for Red Cross use because the city had been heavily bombed. Within a couple of months, she became director of one of the largest Red Cross clubs in Germany. Food was prepared in the club for the servicemen, and Red Cross personnel provided many recreational activities.

In 1948, Laura Mae became the first appointed supervisor of physical education in the Webster Groves, Missouri, public schools. Her work as supervisor for 17 schools encompassed writing curricular materials for quality physical education programs and convincing elementary school classroom teachers of the importance of physical education. There were physical education specialists in some of the schools, but not in all of them. Fortunately, the classroom teachers with whom Laura Mae worked wanted their children to succeed in physical skills as well as in other subject areas and readily followed her recommendation for inclusion of activities that enhanced physical fitness. To Ms. Brown's credit, public schools in Webster Groves gave fitness awards the first year they were made available through AAHPERD and the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Play days were held for the children every year, and parents--including Hall of Fame baseball announcer, Harry Carayhelped with the events. Caray frequently umpired softball games at the school his children attended.

In addition to her HPERD involvement at the state, district, and national levels, Laura Mae served on various National Education Association (NEA) committees and provided leadership to community organizations in St. Louis and its suburban areas. She chaired the Group Action Council of St. Louis, an organization of 46 women's groups. She further served as president of the St. Louis teachers' organization and as president of a suburban group made up of 7,000 members that sponsored a spaceflight program for teachers and students. …

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