William Brown, A Good Public Servant

'Our Town' Logo

"Our Town", By James W. Tucker

The Hampton Union & Rockingham County Gazette

Thursday, August 9, 1951

Hampton has lost one of its first citizens. He was a living repository of vast information concerning our town and most of the facts which he possessed are unrecorded. "Pineland," "The Great Ox Pasture" and various other queerly designated sections of Hampton were, to "Billy" Brown, much more than names by which building lots might be located. They were definite localities, the precise boundaries of which he knew, just as most of us know the Memorial Green, Tuck Field and the State Bath House Area. He had been Town Clerk in Hampton for a little over a quarter of a century. His tenure as Tax Collector had been for a still longer period. He knew Hampton and the history of our town before he became a public officer and he added greatly to that store of knowledge while serving his community.

A Good Public Servant

William Brown was a good public servant. He was honest. He was conscientious. He was efficient. It cannot be said that he was not a typical New Englander, for he was just that in every sense that the term "Typical New Englander" implies. He was quiet and reserved. He was not jovial, but he had a fine sense of humor, a smile so pleasant that it crinkled the corners of his eyes. Although he was conservative at heart and perfectly at home among citizens and politicians of this type, with whom, for the most part, he associated; yet he had a liberal spirit and a sense of fairness which was greatly appreciated by those who do not always see eye to eye with the ultra-conservative citizens who usually dominate the thinking in Yankee villages. He was always polite and courteous in dealing with the public, although never effusive. And he could be counted upon scrupulously to keep his given word in relation to even the most trivial and inconsequential things.

"Bill" Brown Knew People

"Bill" Brown was a competent judge of people. He could spot a "phony" instantly. This uncanny ability was probably not wholly instinctive; it perhaps came from his long experience in meeting all types of people. He was a native of Hampton Falls and graduated from Hampton Academy [& High School] in 1895. Then he became associated with the grocery business of E. G. Cole. He followed this line for some twenty years. When we first knew him, in 1915, he was managing the beach store of the E. G. Cole. In 1921 he became a funeral director, a profession which he followed successfully for about fifteen years. As a grocery clerk and manager, as funeral director and as Town Clerk, his contacts with the general public were many and close. He had ample opportunity to become fully acquainted with people and with Human nature.

. . . And Dogs!

And he knew almost as much about all kinds of animals as he knew about human beings. One time, a good many years ago, a young lady took her dog into the town hall office to get a license. "What kind of a dog do you own?" asked Mr. Brown. "Up 'Jack' and tell the gentleman what he wants to know!" said the girl. And as the dog jumped up and put both of his front paws on the counter, Town Clerk Brown smiled and said: "Well, I should say he is a very handsome, pure-bred male collie about two years old," and Mr. Brown was exactly right in every particular. In such happy ways as this did our town's clerk endear himself to many junior citizens and no one of them will every forget him. And hundreds of adult citizens will remember with equal appreciation, some act of kindness or consideration conferred on them in a quiet unobtrusive manner by this thoughtful town officer.

A Fitting Memorial

Hampton will probably never have another Town Clerk exactly like the late William Brown. He represented an era of municipal office practices and procedures which now are all but discontinued. His term was a period of transition not only in the science of municipal government but also in the history of Hampton. During this time our town experienced the era of its greatest growth and development.

When William Brown became Town Clerk, Hampton was a small village and one of the most venerable of New Hampshire communities. Today it is one of the largest and wealthiest towns in the state. "Billy" Brown continued to administer his important office as it had been conducted by his predecessors. Neither the clerk nor the selectmen with whom he served for the greater part of his quarter century term, were the type to make radical changes. Now, one of the first tributes which could be paid our late clerk would be to set up in his memory, a modern Town Clerk's office with an up-to-the-minute municipal accounting system, and all the clerical and bookkeeping assistance that is necessary to make it work properly and efficiently.

Importance of Modernization

The present board of Selectmen fully understand and appreciate the great need and importance of such modernization. They know full well that it will be next to impossible to secure a successor to "Bill" Brown who can do the increased work which he did with the limited facilities and the outmoded equipment which he was obliged to use. No town clerk of this day and age should be loaded down with such a tremendous burden of clerical detail as Mr. Brown was obliged to shoulder. That he carried it safely and uncomplainingly up until a few weeks before his passing is still further evidence of his sterling worth as a public official.

A Valuable Legacy

We shall miss William Brown in our town. We knew him in many capacities and in each of them, found him to be a thorough gentleman -- conscientious, honest, hard working and efficient. But most of us knew him best as a quiet, painstaking and dignified Town Clerk. And of him pleasant memories will remain as long as life itself. Who can leave behind a more valuable legacy?