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Former Sen. Dan Brown, patriarch of legendary Missouri family, passes at 70

Former state Sen. Dan “Doc” Brown, the patriarch of a legendary Missouri family, passed away on May 11, 2021, at age 70. His legacy of service to the state continues on with his son, current Sen. Justin Brown.

A stalwart fixture in the Missouri Legislature, Brown died Tuesday at the age of 70 at his home in Rolla. He was born in Solo, Missouri, a town with no stoplights on the westside of Hog Creek in Texas County.

From humble roots, he was accepted to the University of Missouri — ultimately becoming a veterinarian. He often told folks who visited his office during his time as the Senate Appropriations Chairman that the University of Missouri changed his life and gave him the opportunity to do work that he loved and provide for his family. 

Brown was a true statesman — known for his unwavering dedication to keeping his word and holding steadfast to the traditions of the Senate. He had an unparalleled knack for caring for animals and his family — and never shied away from cracking a joke. 

The Brown family’s tradition of giving back to the state was reflected when his son, Justin, was overwhelmingly elected to succeed him in 2018. 

“My father was a self-made man, the embodiment of the American Dream who came from humble roots in the small town of Solo in Texas County. He was a hard worker whose life was changed by education. He took those opportunities he was given and always gave back to his community, his state, and most of all his family,” Sen. Justin Brown said. 

Brown touched the lives of many in and around Missouri politics, not the least of all Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe who served with him in the legislature. 

“Sen. Dan Brown, whom those of us fortunate to know him referred to as ‘Doc,’ was one of a kind. Claudia and I were saddened to learn of his passing and are praying for his family, especially his wife Kathy and his son Justin,” Kehoe said. 

“Our family farm is in Phelps County, and long before our political carriers met, Doc was my veterinarian. I learned to appreciate his wit, his incredible skill as a doctor, and his undeniable love for taking care of animals properly,” Kehoe continued. “I then served with Doc for eight years in the Senate and watched him serve his district and the state of Missouri with pride and distinction. As our Senate Appropriations chair, he guided a multi-billion dollar budget with solid consecutive principles. Doc’s word was his bond. Period. He was always good for a joke and a laugh. I was fortunate enough to sit in front of him for most of my Senate career where his common-sense Missouri approach helped me in the job as Floor Leader. He freely gave advice, often when I was not seeking it, but it was always welcomed and typically spot on. After his time served in the legislature, I was fortunate to communicate with him often —  sometimes daily — always ending in a smile. I will miss him a great deal. He is and will always be a good and valued friend.”

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who briefly faced off with Brown in a bid for treasurer, said: “Dan will be sorely missed. He was a great colleague from a wonderful family. I mourn the loss of Dan.”

Former Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard praised Brown for refusing to renege on promises he would make — something that can be especially difficult for those in charge of the state’s budget. 

“He kept his word when it came to negotiations. He worked with both sides of the aisle and took a lot of pressure off me as Pro Tem,” Richard said. 

Brown tackled appropriations as a balancing act, writing in 2017 that he juggled “finding ways to fund our public schools and still take care of those individuals who are the most vulnerable.” Appropriations was an undertaking, he said, that he did not take lightly. 

Brown served the Rolla area as a veterinarian for several decades, having received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbia. He was a member of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Farmers Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association. He was also a charter member of the Mid-Missouri Energy and Paseo Biofuel. 

“His contributions to our profession were tremendous, and he led by example and devoted his time to providing service to his clients and profession,” said Julie Braun, the executive director of the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association. 

And prior to joining the Senate in 2011, Brown was a state representative for the 149th district. 

“He was honest, upfront with what was on his mind,” former Sen. Jay Wasson said. “A steadfast friend who would not back up.”

“Sen. Brown was a true Missourian. And he believed in the value of hard work and education that can lead to a better community and improved societies,” Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri System, said. “He was a strong supporter of higher education, and we will miss him.” 

“We are saddened by the passing of former state senator Dan Brown,” Garrett Hawkins, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said. “During his time in public service, he was a steady, respected leader for agriculture and rural Missouri. As a long-time veterinarian and farmer, he was known for his commonsense and experience. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Brown family.”

Brown sponsored Sarah Steelman’s confirmation as the Office of Administration commissioner. Steelman said: “I was always amused by anyone who thought they were outfoxing Doc Brown because of his country manner. Doc graduated first in his class from the veterinary school at Mizzou and was one of the smartest people who ever served in the legislature. He was an exceptional public servant.”

In the General Assembly, he advocated for right to work legislation and was well-versed on health care issues, something Richard said he came to rely on as the Senate President Pro Tem. 

Brown is survived by his wife, Kathy, and their children, Justin and Danette. The Null & Sons Funeral Home will handle the arrangements which are expected for this weekend in Rolla. 

As news of his death broke, there was an outpouring of respect, admiration, and remembrance for Brown. 

Caleb Rowden: “Dan was hilarious, a curmudgeon, and a humble public servant all at once. Will never be another one like him in [the Missouri Legislature]. Rest in peace, my friend!”

Scott Fitzpatrick: “Doc Brown chaired Senate Appropriations when I chaired House Budget. Got the opportunity to know him pretty well during those two years. We had our moments of impasse like most chairmen do, but he was a damn good guy and I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with him.”

Don Mayhew: “Sen. Brown was a wonderful person and will be greatly missed!”

Ronald Leone: “He was a good, decent man and an honorable and highly effective public servant.” 

Brad Thielemier: “What a good senator and even better man. I considered him a friend, and my heart is heavy with this news.” 

Jacqueline Clark: “Sad news for his family and his fellow Mizzou Tigers.” 

Joe Keaveny: “I’m sorry to hear this. We disagreed about a lot of things, but I always considered him a friend.” 

Ron Fitzwater: “That is sad. Condolences to Sen. Brown and his family.” 

Bob Dixon: “So sorry to hear this. He was a good man and senator.” 

Doug Libla: “Dan Brown was a fine man. Prayers to Kathy and the entire Brown family and his many friends.” 

Anne York Zerr: “What a fine man Dan was. Goodspeed, Doc.” 

Gail Jones: “So very sorry to hear this news. Thoughts and prayers are with the Brown family.” 

Gary Marshall: “Such a great guy. He will be sorely missed. Condolences to Sen. Brown and family.” 

Joe Driskill: “Terrible news. Dr. Brown was a wonderful man and a true friend. He will be missed greatly.” 

Timothy Green: “RIP Doc Brown, pleasure to work with you and become friends.” 

Gary Romine: “So sorry to hear of the loss of a great colleague, Sen. Doc Brown. It was a pleasure to serve with him. Prayers for Kathy, Justin, and family.”

Derrick Spicer: “Sorry for the loss of Sen. Brown. Condolences to the family.” 

Ron Gladney: “Dan Brown was a sincere and honest man.” 

Ron Hicks: “Saddened to hear this. RIP, my friend!”