ANTIOCH -- Charles Brown, the first African-American athlete in a major college sport in a state from the former 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, on Tuesday, referring to the 1965-66 Texas Western basketball 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."

Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown (Special to the Times)

"Charles Brown was a historic figure in the integration of Division I college sports in the South," said Charles Martin, a historian at the University of Texas at El Paso (formerly Texas Western), in an interview with the El Paso Times. "(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 told the El Paso Times. "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."


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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 UTEP 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. He worked for more than 30 years with the San Francisco public school district, including educating teachers on using computers in the classroom and helping accredit school systems in California.

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 was also outgoing and loved jazz music, attending blues festivals in the area and San Francisco 49ers games. The brothers were season ticket holders for 35 years.

Years after retiring and after a stint in Southern California, Brown moved to Pittsburg in 2005. He moved to Cypress Meadows assisted living facility three years ago, Edgar Brown said.

Caretakers at the Antioch facility said he was a kind man.

Flowers may be sent to Fouche's Hudson Funeral Home, 3665 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94609. The funeral will be held on May 23 at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164.