Former Hamilton and Middletown Schools principal James Edward Brown. CONTRIBUTED

Acclaimed Hamilton and Middletown school leader dies at 71

A former Hamilton Citizen of the Year, Brown died Dec. 4 at 71 after an illness that saw Brown return to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, to live out his last days in a hospice care center.

Per his family’s wishes, a private ceremony and burial were held earlier this month.

During their meeting this week, Hamilton Board of Education members held a minute of silence to honor Brown, who started with the city schools in 1973 and later was principal of Garfield Junior High School and Roosevelt Junior High School.

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Brown, who was a track and football coach in Sandusky after excelling as a track and football star at Bowling Green State University, left Hamilton Schools in 1992 to become principal of Middletown High School and later Trotwood High School.

Hamilton Board President Steve Isgro was city police officer whose beat in the 1970s included schools that Brown led. He described the former school administrator as deeply caring and involved with the youth of the city.

“Jim knew every one of his students, and he knew everything about their families,” said Isgro. “He was a great guy to work with.”

Board member Tom Alf, who filled Brown’s job when he departed for the Middletown school system, described the long-time educator as having lasting influence on future school leaders.

“For that generation in Hamilton when he worked, the staff members from that time say he was the most influential person in their lives,” said Alf.

“Mr. Brown was a tremendous person and he mentored and groomed so many of us,” said Alf. “He was a tireless worker and he was at the Garfield school day and night. He had such a tremendous impact on our community.”

Brown also worked as an assistant track coach for Miami University and received a Master of Education Degree in Secondary Administration from the school.

Later while working at Sinclair College in Dayton, he was director at the college’s Fast Forward Program, which enabled out-of-school youth to receive a high school diploma with certification in computers, the medical industry, or the military.

Brown retired in 2005 after 35 years in education.

After retirement, Brown took the position of administrator at a life skills center in Dayton, where he helped at-risk high school students receive their high school diplomas. In 2015, after 10 years at this center, he had his second retirement.

He was named Hamilton’s Citizen of the Year in 1989, received the Southwestern Ohio Administrator Award, was honored with a “Jim Brown Day” in Hamilton. He was chosen for the Sandusky High School Hall of Fame in 1997 and was the recipient of an Image of Hope Award in 2015 in Dayton.

Surviving family members include his wife, Gloria Jean Brown of Mason; daughter, Kimberly Dawn (Thurston) Bailey, and grandson, Bryce Edward Bailey of Chicago; mother, Essie Belle Brown of Sandusky; and sister, Betty Jean Brown of Sandusky.

Memorial contributions are suggested in Brown’s name to Stein Hospice, 1200 Sycamore Line, Sandusky, OH 44870.

Toft Funeral Home & Crematory, 2001 Columbus Ave. in Sandusky is handling arrangements. Condolences and gifts of sympathy may be shared by visiting toftfuneralhome.com.

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