George Brown was a talented carpenter, skilled entrepreneur and philanthropist. As co-owner of the Brown & Miller Shipyard, Brown was known to pay equal and fair wages to employees without regard to race. He is said to be Florida’s first equal opportunity employer because he hired both black and white employees based on their ability and paid everyone the same fair wage.
Their business focused on building & maintaining barges for phosphate transport on the Peace River. Miller sold his half of the company to Brown who then expanded the shipyard and launched the Cleveland Marine Steam Ways in 1916. The marine railway was the largest in southwest Florida and was capable of hauling ashore boats 80 feet long. Brown’s company also repaired boats of any size, including ferries, fishing schooners and pleasure yachts.
Brown was one of the most prosperous and wealthy people in Charlotte County. At one time Brown is believed to have owned half the land in Punta Gorda. He enjoyed exclusive luxuries like having a car, a player piano and a radio and he welcomed black and white kids in the neighborhood into his home to enjoy them.
In addition to being a skilled entrepreneur, Brown was also quite generous and philanthropic. In 1921, he donated land for the all-black Masonic Tuscan Lodge 92. As Charlotte County was growing he sold some of his land in downtown Punta Gorda land that was used to build the first Charlotte County courthouse. The mural on the Historic Charlotte County courthouse paying homage Brown was dedicated on February 20, 2014.
The Ellison for Congress team salutes George Brown for forging a path of equal opportunity employment and forging a path that helped shape Charlotte County.