Lawyers: Story on the “Kennedy’s of Kentucky” and Public Service – The Browns of the Bluegrass – John Jr. , John, III, and John IV

Former Governor John Y. Brown, College Student John Y. Brown, IV, and Former Kentucky Secretary of State John Y. Brown, III (photo from NKU Forum Media Gallery)

Former Governor John Y. Brown, Bellarmine University Student John Y. Brown, IV, and Former Kentucky Secretary of State John Y. Brown, III (photo from NKU Forum Media Gallery)

Never forget that one person’s legacy is another’s heritage.  

This phrase I heard from my father.  And where he got it, I know not.  But it is a universal truth;  a reminder to all of us  that as lawyers and a nation we stand on the shoulder’s of those who built this nation by public service and service to the public.  And by service, I do not limit service to others as just government service.  For me to describe “service” any further would otherwise limit that which we can all do.  Harry S. Truman said it better than I – “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

With the New Years’ Eve celebrations now over and resolutions with the best of intentions beginning, I though the story of the John Browns (Jr., III, and IV) to be both enjoyable and reminder that our resolve to do good should hopefully extend beyond the next week and year, but extend to endeavors beyond law, people whom we know and don’t know, and to generations to follow.

I hope the following stories are a gentle read for you, as they were for me, and a reminded service can be done.

The stories are entitled ““Kennedys of Kentucky” reflect on politics’ past and future” by Lisa Bernard-Kuhn, Channel 9, WCPO in Cincinnati and “‘Kennedys of Kentucky’ family to talk public service at NKU“.  The subjects are John Y. Brown, Jr. (former Governor of Kentucky); John Y. Brown, III (former Kentucky Secretary of State); and John Y. Brown, IV (Bellarmine University college student).  John the III is Of Counsel with the Lexington law firm of Miller & Wells.

The forum was at Northern Kentucky University’s “Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement“.  Although they posted some videos,  I did not see one for the Browns’ talk.  Should anyone find it, please email me to share.

Thanks to Louisville attorney Benham Sims, a former district court judge who an outstanding attorney and public servant in his own right (plus these folks are related to him too!) who shared the story on his Facebook pages.  Benham, just a reminder to you of a mutual friend of ours whom we both remember well for his service the bar and to others, and, as far as I know, never said no to one in need.

Here are some extracts from the stories.  Click on the links in each title for the entire read, and I do hope they remain available in the newspaper archives.

Kennedys of Kentucky’ family to talk public service at NKU

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – Few Bluegrass families can tout the political fortitude, business acumen and public service reach of the Brown family, which includes the former Democratic governor.

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A forum on Thursday at Northern Kentucky University will delve into the Brown matrix – the family’s public service work and what has fueled its leadership through decades. Serving as panelists from the Brown family are: Former governor, John Y. Brown, Jr.; his son and a former Democratic secretary of state, John Y. Brown III; and his son John Y. Brown IV — who is a a budding Republican.

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Browns in the Bluegrass

The son of a congressman and speaker of the House in Kentucky’s General Assembly, John Y. Brown Jr. was 33  years old when he and other investors bought the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in 1964 from founder Harland Sanders for $2 million. At that time the restaurant 600 franchises outlets in the United States, Canada and the first overseas outlet, in England, according to the Kentucky Fried Chicken website. The chain is noted for jump-starting the fast-food industry known globally today.

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His son, John Y. Brown III followed him into politics, serving as secretary of state  from 1996 to 2004.  He ran unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket for lieutenant governor in 2007.

Breaking the family’s Democratic traditions, John Y. Brown IV is a registered Republican.

“Kennedys of Kentucky” reflect on politics’ past and future

Be a maverick.

That’s the mantra of former Kentucky governor John Y. Brown Jr. – one taken from his father and used  to inspire his family’s commitment to public service and entrepreneurship.

Described by some as the “Kennedys of Kentucky,” few Bluegrass families can tout the political savvy and business acumen of the Browns. Their  influence stretches from the counters of Kentucky Fried Chicken to those in the state’s and nation’s capitols.

“I have great pride in the John Y. Brown legacy and past, and I’m very excited about the future,” said the former governor, who on Thursday was joined by his son John Y. Brown III and grandson John Y. Brown IV for a forum on public service at Northern Kentucky University.

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The Browns on family and leadership

“We have 85 years of outstanding service in my family,” said John Y. Brown Jr.  “I’m very proud of it, and it all started with my dad.”

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The Browns on politics and public service

Were this the 1930s, John Y. Brown IV says he’d probably be a Democrat – like his father and grandfathers before him.

“I think I have more a commitment to a set of values than any particular party,” he told the crowd. “Entrepreneurship – that’s big in my family. Honesty, hard work. Right now, I think the Republican party embodies those values more so than the Democratic party.”

Politics today, both elder Browns agreed, have become too partisan.

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The Browns on business and entrepreneurship

Public service isn’t limited to politicians, says Brown III, a business consultant.

“You don’t have to run for public office to be a civic servant,” he said.