Ole Miss great Ray Brown dies at age 81
Ole Miss lost one of its greatest athletes Christmas Day with the unexpected passing of Raymond Lloyd (Ray) Brown, 81, of Pascagoula and Gautier, Mississippi.
Visitation will be held at the Grand Magnolia Ballroom, 3604 Magnolia St. in Pascagoula on Thursday, December 28 from 4 pm until 8 pm. Funeral services will be held at First United Methodist Church, 2710 Pascagoula Street in Pascagoula on Friday, December 29 at 11 a.m. Pallbearers will be his six grandsons.
Born July 7, 1936, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Brown’s death came a week prior to his induction as a Charter Member of the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame. Brown was to have been in New Orleans next Monday for the ceremony where he would have joined another Rebel, Archie Manning, in the Class of 2018.
Brown, who had already been selected to the All-Time Sugar Bowl team (1955-62), was inducted into Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
He was preceded in death by his father, Russell L. Brown and his mother, Agnes Brown Mason, and by his wife of 58 years, Carolyn “Lyn” Shoemaker Brown. He is survived by his daughter, Allison Brown Buchanan (Patrick), of Biloxi, son, Raymond L. Brown, Jr. (Virginia Mary), of Houston, Texas, Beverly Brown Dees (Hale), of Ocean Springs, and eight grandchildren, Hawtin and Frances Buchanan; Raymond, III, Thompson, Patrick and Walker Brown; and Wesley and Sydney Fontaine. He leaves two brothers, Jerry Russell Brown and Donald Hays Brown of Greenville, and a sister, Sally Rebecca (Beki) Brown Morgan, Montgomery, Alabama.
A strong-running, triple-threat player, Brown earned three letters (1955-56-57) for legendary Coach John Vaught’s Rebels and helped lead Ole Miss to the 1955 Southeastern Conference Championship and a three-year record of 26-5-1, including a 14-13 victory over TCU in the 1956 Cotton Bowl and a 39-7 win over Texas in the 1958 Sugar Bowl. He was selected first-team All-SEC by United Press International in 1957, while also being a second-team All-SEC pick of The Associated Press and International News Service.
Brown’s play against Texas in the 1958 Sugar Bowl is considered by many to have been the greatest all-around performance in Sugar Bowl history when he rushed for a first-quarter touchdown, passed for a second-quarter score and also was outstanding on defense with a Sugar Bowl-record three pass interceptions. Against the Longhorns, Brown led the Rebels with 157 yards rushing on 15 carries and also completed three of eight passes for another 58 yards. His three pass interceptions still remains an Ole Miss single-game record shared by eight Rebels.
However, his most memorable moment came late in the contest when he dropped back to punt from his own end zone. Under heavy pressure and facing a possibility of having his effort blocked, Brown raced down the sideline 103 yards for a touchdown, a play which was officially 92 yards and still the longest in Sugar Bowl history.
When the ballots were counted for the 1958 Sugar Bowl Outstanding Player, Brown was the unanimous choice, the first-ever in Sugar Bowl history.
His 92-yard run against Texas still ranks second in the Ole Miss record book for longest rush from scrimmage, having held the school record until 1997 when John Avery had a 97-yard rush against Arkansas.
Including his 1958 Sugar Bowl game against Texas, Brown accounted for 1,998 career yards, averaging 5.98 yards per play, was responsible for 30 career touchdowns (17 rushing TDs, 12 TD passes, 1 TD pass interception return), 10 pass interceptions for 139 yards and one TD and 16 punt returns for 122 yards, an average of 7.6 yards per punt return. He also averaged 36.5 yards on 64 career punts (2,333 yards) and his senior season saw 12 punts carry 50-plus yards from the line of scrimmage.
Brown led Ole Miss in scoring as a junior in 1956 with 52 points (8 TDs, 4 PATs), which was second in the SEC, and as a senior in 1957 with 42 points (7 TDs). As a senior in 1957, he was first in the SEC in total offense, fifth in rushing, seventh in passing, and seventh in punting.
Brown also lettered as a third baseman in baseball at Ole Miss, playing for another Ole Miss legend, Tom Swayze, and was a member of the 1956 NCAA District III champions, which advanced to the College World Series where the Rebels defeated New Hampshire and Bradley before losing to Minnesota and Arizona.
Following his Ole Miss career Brown participated in the 1958 Chicago All-Star Game and the Senior Bowl. After earning his B.B.A. degree from Ole Miss, he was selected in the fifth round (50th overall pick) of the 1958 National Football League Draft by the Baltimore Colts.
He played defensive back, quarterback, punter and kick-holder three years (1958-59-60) with the Colts and was a member of Baltimore’s NFL Championship teams of 1958 and 1959.
In 1958, he was the only rookie starting for either team in the NFL Championship Game as Baltimore defeated the New York Giants, 23-17 in overtime, in what has been called one of the greatest NFL games ever played. Brown was joined on the field that day by two Ole Miss greats playing for the Giants, quarterback Charlie Conerly and defensive back Jimmy Patton.
Brown played safety in 36 NFL games and had 13 pass interceptions for 238 yards. He also had 95 career punts, averaging 39.3 yards per punt, recovered one fumble, completed eight of 19 passes for 78 yards and one TD, and had 20 yards rushing on five carries.
As a prep star at Greenville High School, Brown won the Big Eight Conference’s Outstanding Player Award in 1953, the season he led Greenville to the conference championship. He was a two-time high school All-America and All-State selection, while also being captain of his high school football team. He earned 11 high school letters as he notched Wigwam Wiseman All-America and Scholastic honors and a first-team All-Southern pick. Brown earned All-Big Eight Conference honors in four different sports.
After earning a law degree, Brown began a distinguished legal career and served as president of the Mississippi Bar, president of the Southern Conference of State and Local Bar Presidents, president of the Mississippi Young Lawyers, and president of the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association. He was a member of the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame and the University of Mississippi Law Alumni Hall of Fame.
In 2007, he was named to the 12-man Wall Street Journal Lawyer Football Hall of Fame, which also included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White and President Gerald Ford.
He also served his alma mater as president of the M-Club Alumni Chapter and as president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association and president of the Ole Miss Law Alumni. He was a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Ole Miss Athletics Committee, plus president of the Ole Miss Business School. Brown was named to the ODK leadership fraternity, the Ole Miss Student Hall of Fame and was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity.
Brown was active and a leader in the community and in his profession. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Pascagoula, where he served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, among other positions.
In lieu of flowers, the family wishes consideration of memorials to the University of Mississippi Raymond L. Brown Scholarship in Law, c/o University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655 or First United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 371, Pascagoula, MS 39568.