Readers will remember our series of stories about Edmonds resident Billie Brown detailing her lifetime in the music industry as a promoter and norm-busting disk jockey, one of the few women to make it big in this male-dominated field.
Her family legacy includes her world-famous uncle, the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown, and her father, William “Boy” Brown, who played a pivotal role in discovering and promoting a range of R&B, Soul and Zydeco artists while associated with the seminal KJET Radio out of Beaumont, Texas. A pillar of the community, he was especially passionate in his dedication to local youth. Sadly, Boy Brown passed in 1976, in part due to complications from a tragic altercation with police four years earlier that broke his neck and left him paralyzed. (See My Edmonds News November 2020 story here)
Her father’s key role in influencing and shaping the music scene in Beaumont — and indeed the nation as a whole — led Billie and her siblings on a decades-long quest to gain official recognition for her father and the other pioneering staff of Beaumont-based KJET Radio.
These efforts paid off in 2020, when a letter arrived in Billie’s mailbox from Beaumont Acting Mayor Becky Aimes inviting her to be one of 15 honored guests at a ceremony proclaiming and establishing Dec. 8 as “Boy Brown Day” in the city.
Unfortunately, with her limited resources a trip to Beaumont was out of the question, but with the help of her neighbors and friends in Edmonds a GoFundMe account was set up and soon attracted enough money to cover the cost and give Billie the chance to not only be there for her father’s honor, but to reconnect with family. “Words just can’t say how grateful I am to all who helped with the fund to make this possible,” she said at the time (see My Edmonds News December 2020 story here).
Earlier this year, Billie was shocked to hear of yet another honor to be bestowed on her father. The City of Beaumont will rename a street for him, adding Boy Brown Street to the city’s official map.
And it’s not just any street, but the major arterial passing through the heart of the Brown family’s old neighborhood. Currently known as Bob Street, it will be officially named Boy Brown Street in a gala celebration set for Dec. 10.
“I walked that street so many times as a child — I know every crack in the pavement,” recalled Billie. “We lived one block over, and you could see our homestead from that street.”
Spearheaded by Beaumont Councilmember Chris Durio, who represents their district, the effort required two-thirds of the street residents to sign a petition agreeing to the name change. According to Billie, that was no problem — support was unanimous.
“So many folks who knew and loved my dad still live there,” said Billie. “The support from residents was incredible.”
In addition to permanently renaming the street, the festivities will include presentation of the first annual Boy Brown Award for Communications Excellence and Community Service, a motorcycle parade, and a car show, and plenty of classic soul music.
And once again, Billie has been invited to attend and be part of the dedication ceremony.
Covering travel costs continues to be a challenge for Billie, but her friends in Edmonds have again stepped up to help make this possible. Learn more about the event and join in to help Billie attend at the Friends of Billie Brown GoFundMe page here.
— By Larry Vogel