A Lion has Fallen
always wore his irrepressible smile. At Juneteenth last year, Anthony talked about how his physical condition had become so
unbearable, he thought about giving up. But he never did. From what I have heard, Anthony was in the hospital Saturday to receive a
liver transplant when he died. Anthony was a fighter until the end.
I’ve come to believe that each of us is born with — and enhance during our youth — the seeds of our greatness and our own self-
destruction. Sometimes our greatest attributes are also our greatest flaws, a kind of double-edged sword. I am aware of my own,
sometimes painfully so. Anthony lived larger than life and when you do, the bright public spotlight allows everyone to see your best
features and your flaws. The public glare can bring out the best and worse in any of us. Anthony was a champion of equal rights for 10
years as the Madison EOC executive director. There was enough of a public glare on Anthony as a lightning rod for civil rights issues in
Madison that it brought out all of Anthony’s attributes for the public to see.
Anthony could have pushed paper and gone along as the EOC leader, but Anthony was firmly committed to civil rights. There was the
task force that looked at racial profiling that raised a firestorm of criticism. Madison has a self-image of being a liberal Mecca, a land of
opportunity and equality, where everyone can make it if they just work hard. As the EOC director, Anthony raised issues that went
contrary to that image. Everyone is equal? Then why is there a tendency for so many shopkeepers to follow African Americans around in
the store? Madison can be quite unforgiving when someone shows that Madison the emperor has no clothes on.
Is it any coincidence that Eugene Parks as the Madison Affirmative Action director and Anthony Brown as the Madison EOC director
both ended their tenures in a hailstorm? Both of them were very human and had flaws just like anyone else. They both pressed hard on
issues and were brought down. Hmm.
Perhaps it was a mistake for Madison’s civil rights movement to focus so much of its structure in two Madison departments,
Affirmative Action and the Equal Opportunities Commission, before they were merged into the Department of Civil Rights. While these
departments brought resources to the movement, allowing civil rights leaders to work on Agenda A — the elected officials notion of
civil rights — while pursuing Agenda B — the communities of color’s notion of civil rights — once they were merged and separated from
the civil rights community and the African American community, the Madison civil rights movement became diffused, unfocused and
A perfect example of Agenda A and Agenda B was the EOC receiving unrestricted payments from the federal government to handle
local discrimination cases. Anthony would use those proceeds to sponsor day-long seminars on civil rights issues and would bring in
nationally-recognized figures. People from all walks of life would attend those conferences. Those conferences would rejuvenate people
and allow people to talk about civil rights and get a perspective on things. Eventually, those funds were cut off and I can’t help but think
that a lifeline for the civil rights movement was cut off as well. The nationally recognized civil rights leaders stopped coming, just like
they had stopped coming to speak at Urban League and NAACP dinners and events.
A lot of things happened during Anthony’s tenure at EOC. In addition to the racial profiling task force, we had the Task Force on Race
Relations, which Anthony many times led the way on. Dane Dances got started. We had the Study Circles on Race going. There were the
quarterly Race and Media discussions. The Madison Police Department analyzed its own practices to make sure that it wasn’t engaged
in racial profiling. City officials held meetings with many of Madison’s racial and cultural communities such as the Lao community. EOC
had an annual Latino conference. In looking at the photos that I have of Anthony over the years, he is pictured with people from many
cultural backgrounds. While he wasn’t uniformly perfect with all communities of color, he did make efforts there.
As the EOC executive director, Anthony made sure that the civil rights issues of our day were brought up and that the dialogue was
initiated and steered by the communities of color themselves. Anthony was a fierce fighter and took a lot of hits as he used his position
to engage the community in a civil rights dialogue. Since he left the EOC in 2004, the civil rights dialogue has fallen eerily silent. Without
the voice of Anthony and others pointing out the civil rights problems that still exist in Madison, Madison has almost come to think that
we are in a post-civil rights era. Without any real voices of dissent, the reality of existing inequities are ignored and forgotten.
Anthony Brown was a lion and a warrior for civil rights. He was a larger than life figure who impacted all of our lives. He made us
look at things that many of us didn’t want to see and hear things that many of us didn’t want to hear. There are few people who have
walked in Anthony’s shoes. There are few who took as many shots as he did and still walked around with his head held high, with his
irrepressible smile, until the very end. I am sure that the civil rights warriors from generations passed like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are
greeting him now and telling him ‘You did a job well done.’ Anthony, we have missed your voice for the past six years. Now that you
have passed, we will miss it even more.
By Jonathan Gramling
Ever since I heard that Dr. Anthony Brown had died on
Saturday, I’ve had to take some time to think, reflect and
remember. As a writer, I knew that I would write something
about Anthony. It’s a compulsive thing. But I had to do a lot of
thinking because Anthony lived bigger than life and was a
very complex person. There are probably thousands of sides
to an individual, especially someone who lived life as fully as
Anthony, and each of us sees only some of those sides, only
see part of the mosaic of anyone’s life.
As a reporter, the sides that I saw of Anthony were those
of the public figure although the personal would seep through
here and there. I could see that Anthony loved his family and
fiercely supported his children as they made their way in life,
as children and as adults. But most of what I have seen is
Anthony the public civil rights figure.
It seemed to me that Anthony was determined to live his
life large and in a way that he — and not others — was going
to determine. Anthony was always impeccably dressed, even
more so it seemed after he became ill. Although he suffered
greatly during his illness, especially during the past year,
Anthony still made the rounds at community events and
Anthony Brown with then NAACP Chairrman Julian Bond