By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Recently, NFL great Jim Brown died peacefully in his sleep at his Los Angeles home in California, according to is family. He was 87.
The former activist, actor, and Cleveland Browns football star died on May 18. He married twice and had five children. Brown married his first wife, Sue Brown in September 1959. They had three children, twins born in 1960, and a son born in 1962. According to news reports, he was worth $55 million at his death.
Survivors include his second wife, Monique, and their two children, as well as children from his previous marriage. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Karen Ward. In 2016, The Cleveland Browns erected a statue of Brown outside their stadium in 2016.
Brown became an actor after he stunned the world by retiring at age 30. He appeared in over 30 films, including The Dirty Dozen (1967) and 100 Rifles (1969). His later credits include parts in Mars Attacks! (1996) and Any Given Sunday (1999), in which he played a football coach.
He participated in the 1967 “Muhammad Ali Summit” that was held in Cleveland – where several prominent Black athletes from that era, including Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – gathered and expressed public support for Ali, who was stripped of his championship title due to his objection to fighting in the Vietnam War.
“To the world, he was an activist, actor and football star,” Monique Brown wrote in a recent Instagram post. “To our family, he was a loving and wonderful husband, father and grandfather. Our hearts are broken.”
Brown’s life was complicated. Although he enjoyed a nine-year NFL and long-lasting civil rights career that made him a household word, he was arrested a half-dozen times, mostly on charges of hitting women.
Brown, a Georgia native, enrolled at Syracuse University and excelled in several sports before he was drafted by the NFL in 1957. He became the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year that season. But Brown also grew up enduring countless racist taunts while playing at virtually all-white schools.
“One thing we all have in common is no one can take our integrity away from us,” Brown told CBS News in a 2016 interview. “And you know, all of the glory of being an athletic star doesn’t measure up to being a man. You know, we weren’t asking for anything that anyone else shouldn’t ask for – we just wanted to be a part of the real deal, treated with the same respect you would treat anybody else.”
Brown played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965 after earning all-American honors. He was a four-time NFL MVP and eight-time rushing champ, who averaged 104.3 rushing yards per game – and never missed a game.
He shattered NFL records. He was a gifted athlete – “one of the most dominant players to ever step on any athletic field – but also a cultural figure who helped promote change,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a recent statement.
In 1988, Brown founded Amer-I-Can, an organization that helped former prison inmates develop life skills that aided their transition. Brown also worked with former gang members and sought to create a truce between rival gangs in Los Angeles.