Member Spotlight

Betty Brown
Member Spotlight

May 2019
by Robin McKinley
Two big brothers, 9 and 12 years old at the time, greeted the birth of Betty Brown in Burnet, Texas.  Her father was a master mechanic and was manager of the Ford dealership parts department in Burnet.  Her mother was an LVN at the local, privately owned by one doctor, clinic and hospital.  A sister joined the family nine years after Betty’s birth.  Betty’s school years were also spent in Burnet. 
Betty’s family attended the Church of Christ, and she worshipped there until the 1970s.  Of course, no instruments are allowed in Church of Christ services.  Nevertheless, the beginnings of Betty’s musical ability were established in this church. When Betty was five or six years old, her cousin who had a strong alto voice told Betty she was going to teach her to sing alto.  She sat next to her cousin in choir. “She taught me to listen for harmony,” says Betty.
In the fourth grade, she began singing in school.  Then, band became available and anyone could audition.  Winning a spot in the band, Betty played the cornet. The band taught Betty to read music. She was also in the junior high and high school choruses. 
When she was in high school, she was invited to join a local trio called the Tom Ren Ray Trio.  Named after the original members of the trio, Tom played the trumpet, Ren played the guitar, and Ray played the organ.  They played and Betty sang for all kind of events.  When her dad found out, he was not at all pleased.  His daughter was never going to go sing in a honkytonk!  Happily for Betty, he finally relented for other venues.
After she graduated from high school, she went to Austin, choosing Nixon-Clay Commercial College for her studies. She had received scholarships both there and at the University of Texas at Austin, but UT required that she live on campus and by the time she was accepted, no housing was available at UT.  She planned to go to UT after she finished at Nixon-Clay.
When Betty was studying at Nixon-Clay, the Austin TV station owned by Lady Byrd Johnson, KTBC, (Channel 7 now); had an amateur talent contest.  Ray found out about it and told Betty he was going to enter her. “I didn’t have much time to rehearse,” Betty remembers.  But she and the trio had been in many local “Hay Loft” musical shows.  For the contest, she sang “Stormy Weather”.  The winner was based on how many votes the public sent in. Nixon-Clay gave all their students postcards (with a plug for the college) filled in with Betty’s name to submit for the vote.  “We won!” Betty remembers with fond joy.
The love of Betty’s life appeared on the scene while she was in Austin, and her life plan changed as life plans do.  She finished a ten-month course of study at Nixon-Clay, and then went to work for the Railroad Commission as a secretary.  Four years later, she married Dwayne Brown on April 6, 1955, and proudly recounts she was married for 55 years and 29 days, until Dwayne’s death.
After her marriage, Betty worked as the secretary to the county judge and county attorney from fall 1957 to April 1958.  She loved the work but when Dwayne was drafted and finished his basic training, Betty quit her job to accompany Dwayne to New Jersey where he attended signal school.  Next, he was sent to Korea, and Betty returned to Burnet where Sharon, their first child, was born.  Sharon was just short of 8 months old before Dwayne first saw her.  Sharon initially was singularly unimpressed by this stranger in the house.
The family moved to Fort Benning, Georgia. Sharon was soon joined by Carlton and Linda.  These days, Sharon lives in Irving.  Carlton is in the middle, and he lives in Farmers Branch.  Linda is youngest and she lives out of Liberty Hill.  Betty’s children eventually gave her four grandkids – Christine, 31, Brandon, 28, Connor, 24, and Stacy, also 24.  She also has 2 greats: 12-year-old Xavier, and nearly 2-year-old Penelope.
In 1959, when Dwayne separated from active duty, the family moved to Austin.  From 1959-63, Dwayne worked for Color Press, a company which published yearbooks.  Betty wasn’t actively employed until 1961 when she typed addresses for bulk mailing at home.  In 1963, Color Press went bankrupt because of cash flow problems.  Dwayne decided to get additional training and they moved to Waterloo, and later to Taylor.
Because of several crises in her life, Betty had quit attending church.  About 1975, Betty’s kids started coming to Taylor FUMC with friends, and they sang in choirs through the Sunday School.  One year, they were preparing a Christmas cantata, and the choir was short on altos.  Her kids asked her to come sing.  She sang for the cantata and shortly after she began singing regularly.  A few years later, she joined the church.  Whit Whittington was the preacher, and his wife, Millie Whittington, was a good friend to Betty, and instrumental in her joining the church.
By 1977, with her youngest in junior high, Betty began to think of returning to work.  Betty’s dream had been to work with juveniles and she thought the ideal would be a job for the county.  She applied for a county job, and interviewed.  Although she was a good match for the job since she had trained as an executive secretary and had relevant experience, her family had too high an income.  The job was set aside for a low-income family.
About this time, the Whittingtons invited her to a party at the parsonage.  Millie knew she was looking for a job.  Millie introduced Betty to a woman who became Betty’s boss for 23 ½ years.  The woman was a nurse practitioner practicing under local physician. 
Betty was hired to establish and set up an office in Taylor for her and, of course, “other jobs as assigned.”  The office, named Direct Heath Care Service, was responsible for family planning services in Burnet, Williamson, Bastrop and Fayette Counties.  Betty’s job gave her direct, hands-on contact with young women. The office had few services for women over 40 (Betty was 41).  The youngest client was short of twelve years.  “I was like the older aunt or grandma,” Betty says.  She had gotten the ideal job with juvenile contact that she had wanted. “God delivered the job,” Betty says.
After the initial set up, Betty ran the office and did clerical work.  She was also trained for specific tasks such as drawing blood and conducting blood tests. She did pregnancy testing, pap smears, and STD screenings.  In the 1980s, HIV testing and counseling was added to their services. 
As a part of her job, Betty remembers fondly her contribution to a manual for family planning.  “I had the privilege of doing the transcribing and a little editing on a publication policy and procedure training manual for family planning workers.  It was the first in state of Texas and was funded by donations.”
After joining Taylor FUMC, Betty never looked back.  She says, “I like it that Taylor FUMC has open doors and open arms.  It is a loving congregation.”  Her roots here run deep.  The parsonage was originally given to the church by her mother’s first cousin, Lola Preslar.  Cousin Lola specified in her will that the parsonage be purchased and given to the church.
Her singing is still legendary.  Her favorite hymn is “He Leadeth Me” because he does, and the lyrics say so much.  She also loves “It Is Well with My Soul.”  Betty explains, “It tells a lot about me because I went through a period of time when it was not ‘well with my soul.’”
What a wonderful legacy Betty brings to our church.  So many have been touched and enriched by her experiences and her life.

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