Twenty years ago, on May 6, 1989, after finding his boat disabled, authorities recovered the body of 75-year-old Charles Russell Brownell Jr., M.D.
The longtime mayor of Morgan City, former state representative and World War II veteran was found in Bayou Milhomme. The search for Brownell was launched after he failed to return from his fishing camp for a social engagement.
Although “Doc” Brownell was a man of immense inherited wealth, he was fondly known throughout the area as a down-home, country doctor. Brownell was a man of character and integrity. In word and deed, he embodied Webster’s definition of public service.
During 36 years in city office, he never accepted a single penny of pay.
To Doc, leadership was more than just a word. Everyone who knew Doc Brownell has a clear picture of him. As a public servant, he would occasionally take positions on issues that made the people of his city think. Many agreed with his point of view, but some didn’t.
The silence of Doc Brownell’s voice, which so passionately and tirelessly sought a safer place, environmentally sound economic growth and development with social and economic justice on behalf of those he served, has created a deafening void in leadership in this city. A void that, 20 years later, has yet to be filled.
My parents were the same age as Doc Brownell. Like many, my parents admired and loved him.
When I was in the Army in 1968 serving in Vietnam, Doc Brownell would take time out from his busy schedule to write me in an attempt to keep me informed as to the political happenings in Morgan City and St. Mary Parish. On two occasions, while seriously ill, he wrote me from his hospital bed in Houston.
Doc Brownell was a very good friend. Those who knew and worked with him valued his service and numerous contributions to the city and St. Mary Parish. We will continue to remember and miss him.
Max J. Thibodeaux Jr.,
Morgan City, La.