Biographical / Historical
John Lackey Brown was born April 29, 1914, in Ilion, New York. His father was Leslie Beecher Brown, a businessman; and his mother was Katherine Lackey. Dr. Brown was educated at Hamilton College where he received an A.B. in 1935. He then pursued graduate work in medieval studies and comparative literature at the Ecole des Chartes and at the Sorbonne in Paris (1936-938). After receiving a PhD., in 1939, from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Dr. Brown taught there as an instructor of Romance languages from 1939 to 1941.
During World War II, Dr. Brown served as assistant chief of foreign publications in the Office of War Information (1942-1943); and as a member of the staff of the Office of Strategic Services (1943-1945). For some years after the war, he resided in Paris, travelling extensively throughout western Europe as European editor for Houghton-Mifflin Company, and as a correspondent of the Sunday edition of the New York Times, as well as contributor to numerous European and American journals (1945-1949).
For more than a decade (1949-1962), Dr. Brown worked for the U.S. government in a number of capacities as director of the Economic Cooperation Administration, Information Division, the Marshall Plan, France; chief of regional services for the U.S. Information Service at the U.S. Embassy in Paris (1950-1954); and cultural attache to the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, Belgium (1954-1958), and in Rome, Italy (1958-1962). Dr. Brown continued in government service as counselor for cultural affairs to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City (1964-1968).
An extremely rich and accomplished academic career comprises the other portion of Dr. Brown's diverse professional work. From 1962 to 1963, Dr. Brown was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. During this time he also completed a book on changing European-American intellectual relations, entitled, “Il gigantesco teatro” (Rome: Opere Nuove, 1963).
Throughout his life, Dr. Brown lectured extensively on American-European literary and intellectual relations both at the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State and at many American universities, including Harvard, Rutgers, Saint Louis University, Smith College, the University of Colorado, the University of the South, and Yale. From 1966 to 1967 he was the Barry Bingham Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of Louisville. Dr. Brown returned to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., from 1968 to 1979, as professor of comparative literature at the graduate school. His lecture circuit also extended to Canada (1970-1971), and academic institutions around the world, including the Institute of Anglo-American Studies of the National University of Mexico (1966-1968), where he was professor of American Literature and Civilization; the Institut Catholique in Paris (1969); and the University of Lisbon, where he was Senior Fulbright Professor (1979-1980).
Dr. Brown's many academic works in comparative literature are published in English, French, and Italian. He contributed many articles to scholarly journals in his subject area. Dr. Brown's literary interests also extended to verse. His many poetical works include: “Signs,” (Paris: Henneuse, 1956); “Weights and Measures,” (Paris: Henneuse, 1958); “Another Language,” (Milan: Il Pesce d'Oro, 1961); “Numina,” (Paris: Henneuse, 1969); “Tributes,” (Washington, D.C.: Proteus, 1980); “Shards,” (Washington, D.C.: Proteus, 1982); “Celebrations” (Washington, D.C.: Proteus, 1990); and “Awakenings” (1995).
Dr. Brown was a member of numerous literary associations including Association Internationale des Etudes Françaises, Association Internationale des Critiques Littéraires, the P.E.N. Club, and the Modern Language Association of America. He was also a member of the Foreign Service Association and the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. Awards and honors presented to Dr. Brown include Decorated Commander, Chevaliers du Tastevin (Burgundy, France), 1953; Grand Prix de la Critique from Syndicat des Critiques, 1954, for “Panorama de la Littérature Contemporaine aux Etats Unis”; and Le Grand Ordre des Coteaux (Champagne), 1973.
Dr. Brown retired to Washington, D.C, residing there until the end of his life. He continued to contribute journal articles, act as consultant and reviewer for Houghton-Mifflin Company, as well as to write poetry. Dr. Brown died on November 2, 2002. He was survived by his wife Simone-Yvette L'Evesque and two sons Michel-Simon and John Halit.
Sources: “Contemporary Authors,” volume 49-52, p.82; “Who's Who in America”; “Directory of American Scholars,” 6th edition, volume III.