Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

J. Oliver Brown, doctor for 50 years

J. OLIVER BROWN practiced medicine in West Philadelphia until 2000, but in many ways he was the quintessential old-fashioned doc.

J. OLIVER BROWN practiced medicine in West Philadelphia until 2000, but in many ways he was the quintessential old-fashioned doc.

He actually made house calls in an era when most people have to drag themselves to their doctor's offices no matter how sick they are.

And he was so concerned about his patients' welfare that he would treat them regardless of their ability to pay.

More often than not, patients just dropped into his office, without appointments, and would put up with long waits just to see Dr. Brown.

He died Nov. 29 at age 91. He lived in West Mount Airy, but had lived and worked in West Philadelphia for many years.

"Dr. Brown's reputation for diligence was legendary," his family wrote in an obituary. "He never complained about his typical 13-14-hour days, or anything else for that matter."

A sports fanatic, he would engage his patients in long discussions of current and future games in all sports. He attended the Penn Relays for 75 consecutive years, and was an avid golfer, playing at his favorite course, Cobbs Creek.

He was a friend of Wes Covington, Phillies star outfielder of the '60s, who introduced him to a number of sports figures, including Willie Mays, boxer Sonny Liston, and the star black golfer Lee Elder. Brown was betrayed only once by a patient.

In the late '80s, a man who arrived in his office at 863 N. 46th St. as a patient, left, and returned to rob him and all the patients in the waiting room.

After that, he moved his offices to the Misericordia Pavilion, in West Philadelphia.

He was born and raised in West Philadelphia and graduated from Overbrook High School in 1933. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1937, and a master's in mathematics from Penn in 1941.

After completing graduate studies, he taught math for two years at Hampton University, in Virginia, before entering Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tenn.

He graduated from Meharry in 1948 and returned to Philadelphia for a two-year internship at the now-closed Philadelphia General Hospital.

He was only the second African-American intern at PGH.

He began his practice in 1950 and continued for the next 50 years until he had a stroke and was forced to retire in 2000.

He was a staff member at the old Mercy-Douglass Hospital and at the Misericordia Division of the Mercy Catholic Medical Center.

His patient load was such that his name and his patients were well-known on all the clinical service of all the hospitals in the West Philadelphia area.

He also served as a mentor and friend to several young African-American physicians who were establishing themselves in practice. He enlisted them on occasion to share some of his burdensome load of house calls.

"He was wholly dedicated to his practice," said his daughter, Pamela D. Brown, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia.

"If a patient warned him that he or she had no money, he would treat them anyway," she said.

In 2003, he received the Edward S. Cooper Humanitarian Award for his service to the community.

He was a member of the Medical Society of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the National Medical Association, the Philadelphia County Medical Society, the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the American Medical Association.

He was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Catharine; a son, Matthew, who works in finance in New York City, and a grandson, Luca Carlo Oliver Brown.

Services: Memorial Service 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ Church and St. Michael's, 29 W. Tulpehocken St. *