ANTIOCH -- Charles Brown, the first African-American athlete in a major sport in the old Confederacy before settling into a long career in public education in the Bay Area, died Sunday. He was 83.
Brown, who went to Texas Western College in El Paso in 1956 on an athletic scholarship to play basketball, helped desegregate college athletics.
"He would always talk about Glory Road," said brother Edgar Brown, of Antioch, Tuesday, referring to the 1965-66 Texas Western team led by coach Don Haskins that had an all-black starting lineup. "But, without (Charles) paving the way earlier, they would not have been successful."
"Charles Brown was a historic figure in the integration of Division 1 college sports in the South," said Charles Martin, a historian at University of Texas at El Paso (formerly Texas Western). "(He) was not exactly Jackie Robinson for the integration of college sports, but he was very close to it."
Nolan Richardson, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August, grew up in El Paso and watched Brown play.
"He was my big idol," Richardson said. "During those days there weren't any black players we could go see on that level. So I went to see him every chance I got. And he could play."
Brown averaged 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds a game in his three seasons with the Miners. He was inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
Edgar Brown said his brother was good enough to play professional basketball, but that "was before they were letting a lot of black players in."
Charles Brown, who never married, moved to the Bay Area and earned a master's degree in education from San Francisco State University. He worked for over 30 years with the San Francisco public school district, most of it educating teachers on using computers in the classroom and accrediting school systems.
Edgar Brown, the lone surviving sibling out of 12, said his brother was close to his nieces and nephews and enjoyed being a role model for them. He also very loved jazz and the San Francisco 49ers. The brothers were season ticket holders for 35 years. Brown moved to Pittsburg in 2005. He moved to Cypress Meadows Assisted Living Facility three years ago.
The El Paso Times contributed to this story.