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Honoring the Memory of William Bud Brown

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” - Winston Churchill

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The time is always right to do what is right.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The words of these famous men fit the life lived by one of my best friends, Willam B. Brown (1945-2022). He was known as Bud to everyone. It was his middle name. Bud and I first met in the early 1980's when he took one of my criminal justice classes at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). We soon became the best of friends and I helped guide him through all the challenges of the academic world. After graduating with a degree in social work, Bud became a graduate student in the sociology department where he earned both an MA and PhD. While he was a graduate student he took a theory class and one of the assignments was to write about a theorist. The professor wrote the names of several of the theorists on small pieces of paper and put them in a coffee can. Bud pulled out one with the name of Richard Quinney. He learned that I was familiar with Quinney’s work and had met him in person. Bud came to me asking for help. I gave him Quinney’s phone number and said he should call him. Bud was surprised but he called Quinney. They talked for quite a while and Quinney sent him several of his publications. They became lifelong friends.

From left to right, William Bud Brown (1945-2022), Randall Shelden and Richard Quinney pose with wide smiles in front of a luscious green lawn. 

After receiving his PhD at UNLV, Bud became a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and later at the University of Michigan-Flint. Eventually he ended up at Western Oregon University. Over the ensuing years we collaborated on several writing projects, including two books. One was called, “Youth Gangs in American Society” (now in its 4th edition) and the other an introductory criminal justice text called, “Crime and Criminal Justice in American Society” (now in its 2nd edition). We also collaborated on a study of jail overcrowding in Las Vegas.

Bud did his most important work dealing with veterans, and he published several articles on veterans in the criminal justice system. He also focused on veterans in the Vietnam War in particular. Bud was in the army stationed in Vietnam. That experience was hard on him and left a lasting impression. Twenty years after he was released, he made his first of several trips to Vietnam. He felt guilty about what we did over there. He published an article called “Reconciliation in a Back-Alley Cafe of Saigon” where he wrote about making peace with the past. On one of his subsequent trips he donated his medals to the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. What he wrote on the plaque is very revealing: “I was wrong. I am sorry."

Over the years he shared many stories about his experiences in Vietnam. These experiences left him with an intense hatred of war and especially this war. He channeled this feeling into many solid contributions to peace. He became involved as a consultant with what he and fellow soldier Kyle Rodgers called the “Bunker Project." They were hired by defense attorneys and family members of veterans who were defendants in the criminal justice system. He had several articles on the subject published in CJCJ’s Justice Policy Journal.

Bud was more than the work he did. In all my life I never met anyone who was as kind and honest as Bud. Everyone who has ever known him would describe him as genuine. He created his own path as Emerson said. He always did what was right as Martin Luther King said. And as Winston Churchill said, Bud made a life by what he gave.

I have so many memories of the times we spent together and the times we spent talking on the phone. I have never been one who spent a lot of time talking on the phone. With Bud, there was no such thing as a short phone call, as they almost always lasted at least an hour and many times more. There was a standing joke between my wife and I about the times he would call and leave a message on our home phone. He would always say “Hey Randy, this is Bud.” He would often say the same thing when he left a message on my cell phone.

I’m going to miss him. As I write these words I am still grieving and have tears in my eyes – tears that have come more than once since I heard of his death.

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