Never give up. Never lose hope. Never stop dreaming – and learning. That is how Gertrude Davis Brown will be remembered, as one who encouraged and persevered. The beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, the heart and soul of one of America’s distinguished civil rights families, died at the age of 90 on Thursday, July 13, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Services are scheduled for Monday, July 24, 2017 for Mrs. Brown, the mother-in-law of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. The services begin at 11:00 a.m. at Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, 6th St. N.W. & Howard Place N.W. in Washington, D.C.
Flowers may be sent to Marshall-March Funeral Homes, c/o Gert rude Davis Brown, 4217 9th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011. To contact the funeral home call (202) 723-1250. Contributions/Donations should be sent to the Jackson Foundation, 930 E. 50th St., Chicago, IL 60615. For additional information call (773) 256-2713.
Mrs. Brown, lovingly known as Gertie, was born at home “on the Muck” in Pahokee, Florida to Algertha Davis, on March 7, 1927, 65 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the challenges of life during the time she was born and raised her children, Gertrude lived a life of self-sacrifice, commitment and determination, accomplishing the goals she set for herself and her children. Today’s young mothers could learn a valuable lesson from Gertrude about the importance of a mother’s role in the education of her children.
She was born poor, in the pits of poverty with low expectations and Black, in the Jim Crow South. She was orphaned when she was 12 years old. Gertie started her family at age 16. She began her early life of work in the fields of Fort Pierce, FL, picking beans and tomatoes and was sometimes a migrant worker.
She soon married and moved to Newport News, VA, and began anew.
Gertrude Brown was married for 55 years with a record of service of more than 30 years at the Veterans Administration Hospital. Gertie was an advocate of self-improvement and famously remarked “that poverty is the cruelest of all social and economic diseases,” and “wherever and whatever it takes to be the very best you can be, take it.” To this end, she wholly devoted herself to encouraging whomever she encountered to never stop learning.
Each of her children was sent to college before she pursued her own life-long dream of an education. While working full-time, Gertie attended school in the afternoon and evenings at Thomas Nelson Jr. College. She received her high school diploma there at the age of 51. She then entered Hampton University and received her bachelor’s degree in social work at 61, while still employed. Her love for, and dedication to Hampton University was so profound that she felt a degree from Hampton University was equivalent to Harvard, Yale or Princeton.
In 1988, she was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “this is such an exciting time in my life and finally my dream has come true. I’m never going to stop going to school.”
She was so proud in 1988 about receiving her bachelor’s degree, and the words of her son-in-law, presidential candidate Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., who delivered the keynote address during her commencement and led the cheers when he said, “never surrender.” It didn’t stop there. Gertie continued her education and completed her master’s degree at 63.
Mrs. Brown was preceded in death by her loving husband Chief Petty Officer Julius Francis Brown, and two children, Cynthia Violet Dancy and Julius Francis Brown, Jr.
She is survived by two daughters, Jacqueline Lavinia Jackson, and Constance Delores Ward.
The people impacted by Gertrude’s presence on earth are far too numerous to list. She leaves to mourn in addition to her children, son-in-law Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., daughter-in-law Brenda Brown, eight grandsons, two granddaughters, 22 great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews and special friends.
In her later years she’d ask every child who passed her porch in Washington, D.C., “What are you doing? What do you want to be? Who’s your mama? I know she wants to be proud of you.”