/His wife says Pete Brown, finally recognized at home, is smiling down, saying ‘Amen!’

His wife says Pete Brown, finally recognized at home, is smiling down, saying ‘Amen!’

This meant that when Pete Brown hit his drives, Margaret Brown was already on the fairway so she was close to where his ball was bouncing and rolling. She said that this way she could prevent people from walking on Pete Brown’s golf ball and telling him a lie. He used to do that all the time.” Pete Brown was born in Port Gibson, and was raised in Jackson. He was closely followed by Charles Sifford. Brown joined the tour in 1963. The next year, he became the first black golfer in the PGA Tour to win a tournament at the Waco Invitational. It was a different time in America. Pete Brown, 80, died in 2015 after playing in tournaments at private golf clubs and courses. He was not allowed to play if he didn’t hold a PGA ranking. He was often told by many in the almost all-white gallery that he wasn’t wanted to win, and they sometimes threatened him with violence. He would often not be able to stay at the same hotels as the other golfers. These were only for white golfers. Margaret Brown stated that Pete was playing in the Michigan Open and had played well enough to make it into a sudden-death playoff. “So, he was standing on the first tee in the playoff. He was about to hit, and there were a lot of men outside shouting the N-word. They wanted to know what Pete was up to out there. “Well, it was quiet outside and Pete pulled away from his shot. Everyone was eager to see what he would do. Pete stood there and then doubled over laughing. He let out a belly laugh, then shook his head. The situation was somewhat diffused when the others started laughing. Then Pete hit the ball. And then Pete won the playoff. In 1970, he won San Diego/Andy Williams Invitational. He beat Tony Jacklin in a playoff. To win the tournament, Brown was seven shots behind the leader in the final round. Jack Nicklaus, who was third in the tournament, is likely to be familiar. All of these reasons have led to Pete Brown being inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020. Margaret Brown was present in Jackson Monday to witness the announcement. The Class of 2020 includes six people. All are worthy, but Pete Brown is the most deserving. He didn’t even live long enough for the ceremony and the announcement. Margaret Brown stated, “This means a lot for me.” It would be a lot to Pete. It would have been a great honor to be there. It would have been nice if he could have enjoyed this, but it is better to be alive than sorry. Pete is smiling right now, and he’s looking at me. He’s the son of sharecroppers in southwest Mississippi. His family grew cotton and peas to support their family’s financial needs. He began working as a caddie on the Jackson public golf course when his family moved to Jackson. He earned 35 cents per nine holes and 55 cents per 18. He would usually carry 36 holes of other people’s clubs in a single day and make just over a dime. He would sometimes sneak onto the course at night to play a few holes. He used a left-handed 3-wood, and a righthand 5-iron that he had retrieved from the lake. Soon, Pete Brown was playing well enough that he beat almost all of his caddies. New Orleans was the closest place where he could still play golf. Pete would drive 200 miles with two or three friends to play the game he loved. This was only for Mondays. However, that course was only for whites. Most pro golfers started playing golf when they were toddlers. To learn the finer details, they attend expensive golf schools. Famously, Tiger Woods was on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” when he was just 2. Pete Brown was 20 when he bought his first set golf clubs. He was self-taught. It’s amazing. Pete and Margaret, both Morton residents, met at a Jim Hill High basketball game as teenagers. They fell in love, dated and got married. Six children were born to them, all of them girls. Pete was often out playing golf, while Margaret was “a stay at-home mom” and loved her baby girls. He called them his six princesses. He said that I was always the queen.” This is what you should think about: Brown rose up the golf ladder from humble beginnings at a time when 99.9999% of the sport was lily-white. Brown was a member of the Chitlins Tour, a group that allowed blacks to play on the PGA Tour. He won the U.S. Negro Open 4 times. He was then allowed to play on the PGA Tour and won several tournaments. He helped to open the door for players like Calvin Peete, and later Tiger Woods. He was close friends with Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Weiskopf. Pete Brown was tolerant of jeers and other minorities because of his race. Because he was not allowed clubhouse privileges, he often changed into his spikes on the parking lot. He was not allowed to participate in invitation-only tournaments like The Masters. He played wherever he could. Margaret Brown says that Pete would let the ball roll off his back. He was. In 1983, Brown was interviewed at Hattiesburg’s Magnolia Classic. It was during those years when Mother Nature decided that thunderstorms and floods were more important than golf and birdies. I spoke with Pete for just a few moments. We spoke for over two hours about family, golf, Mississippi and all that he had accomplished. He was kind. He was funny. He was a strong handshaker with a warm smile. He was 48 years old at the time and eagerly awaited the new-fangled PGA Senior Tour. He was already a club pro in Dayton (Ohio) and was teaching young black girls how to play golf. This program was the precursor to today’s First Tee. He wanted to ensure that children who wanted to learn to golf did not have to play on the streets at night with only one club, one left-handed and one one-handed.