By Jim Hitch
The late Charles W. Brown, Lieutenant General, US Army Retired, a Rushville native, has been elected to the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mrs. Sherry Brown of Gainesville, Virginia, received official notification from the Museum April 29, 2013. General Brown will be inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners on April 12, 2014, at the Museum in Oklahoma City. His many friends and relatives in the Rushville area are thrilled.
Election to the Hall of Great Westerners is the top honor awarded by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. General Brown will be joining Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Goodnight, Dwight Eisenhower, Meriwether Lewis and more than 200 other great men and women of the American West whose lives exemplify the Western ideals of honesty, integrity, leadership and self-sufficiency.
Brown was born on the Brown Brothers Ranch south of Rushville in 1932. The ranch had been established by his grandfather in 1902. Brown attended public schools in Rushville through high school. He received his college education at the New Mexico Military Institute, graduating in 1953 at which time he entered the US Army for a career lasting 37 years.
Brown participated in rodeo calf roping events while in high school and was a member of the NMMI rodeo club. He was decorated for valor during the Vietnam War and served in many Army assignments of importance in the United States and overseas. While assigned to head the Reserve Officers Training Corps Program at Texas Tech University, Brown reorganized and coached an award-winning rodeo team.
It was in Germany as a 49 year old brigadier general that he earned the title “The Cowboy General.” He encouraged a touring rodeo to come to his station to entertain his soldiers and their families. He quietly entered the calf roping contest, tagging his calf in eight seconds, good enough for third place. Brown said it was his career best time. The Stars and Stripes newspaper said he was “The Cowboy General.”
After retirement from the Army, Brown turned his attention to the restoration of the Brown Brothers Ranch to an effective cattle operation. He consolidated ownership, purchased land, improved facilities, and invested in breeding stock.
The ranch celebrated its centennial in 2002 at which time Brown and his family were recognized with the Pioneer Farm Family Award by the Omaha World Herald. Brown was further recognized in 2012 when he was elected posthumously to the Nebraska Sandhills Cowboys Hall of Fame. His son, Stephan, now operates the ranch with General Manager Keith Millikan, and grandson, Austin, a cadet at West Point, is becoming involved, too.
General Brown died in 2007. With his choice of burial, Brown made a final statement of his love for our Western heritage. Although qualified for burial at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, Brown chose to be buried in the veterans’ section of Fairview Cemetery, Rushville, and military honors were provided by the American Legion and his rodeo partner from high school, Blayne Begin. Election to the Hall of Great Westerners is a signal honor recognizing Charles W. Brown for his service to our nation and for his life-long promotion of our Western heritage.
The author, from an Oklahoma ranching family, is a retired soldier who worked extensively with General Brown in the NMMI Alumni Association.