Willie James Brown

May 22, 1942 - Sept. 21, 2012
Willie James Brown

    Willie James Brown of Sag Harbor, who ran the James Brown Barber Shop on Halsey Avenue in Southampton for generations, died at the Bridgehampton house of his brother, Hanson Brown Jr., on  Sept. 21. He was 70 years old and had myeloma, a blood cancer.
    Born in Vienna, Ga., on May 22, 1942, to Hanson and Effie Mae Redding Brown, Mr. Brown was one of seven siblings. He grew up in Dooly County in Georgia and attended school there. He began cutting hair as a teenager, and shortly after graduating from high school moved to Orlando, Fla., where he became a full-time barber at the age of 20.
     In the early 1960s, he came north, moving in with his brother and opening his own shop, which he ran until 2007, when his health began to fail. Soon afterward arriving in Bridgehampton, he met Ruth M. Martin. They were married in 1962 and had one daughter, Deborah Ann Brown Phipps, who now lives in Middle Island. Considered a jack of all trades, he built a house for his family on Richards Drive in Sag Harbor.
    “He loved the East End because it was peaceful, serene,” Ms. Phipps said yesterday. At the same time, she said, “He was all about work. He was the hardest working man I ever saw.”
    In addition to cutting hair, Mr. Brown found time to work at Shaw Aero Industries in Sag Harbor and for the Schaffer Bus Company in East Hampton, and to start East End Handyman, which did repairs and landscaping. 
    Mr. Brown was a religious man and a member of the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton, where he was an usher and doorkeeper for over 45 years. Wakes will be held there tomorrow, from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 10 p.m., and a funeral service will take place on Saturday at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Edgewood Cemetery in Bridgehampton.
    Besides his brother Hanson Brown, Ms. Phipps, and another daughter, Carmen Vanessa Brown, who was born when he lived in Florida and still lives in Orlando, Mr. Brown is survived by a son, Darrell Odom of Laurel, Miss., two sisters, Bertha Paramore and Martha Medlock, two other brothers, Walter Frank Brown and Kenneth Reginald Brown, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
    The family has established the James Brown Scholarship in his memory, and has suggested that donations to it be sent to P.O. Box 1584, Sag Harbor 11963.