Rev. George Thompson “Tommy” Brown died in his sleep Tuesday morning, January 21, 2014 at the Park Springs retirement home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The cause of death was complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 92 years old. Tommy Brown was born in Kuling, (now Lushan) in Jiangxi China, April 30, 1921. He was raised in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, as the son of Presbyterian missionaries, Frank A. Brown of Norfolk and Charlotte Thompson Brown of Atlanta.
A 1942 graduate of Davidson College, he served in World War II as a U.S. Army Signal Corps officer. After the war, he attended Union Theological Seminary in Richmond and Princeton Seminary in New Jersey, receiving graduate degrees in theology and eventually his doctorate from Union. After two years as a pastor in Gastonia, North Carolina, he was appointed a Presbyterian missionary to Korea just as the Korean War was ending. Tommy Brown believed a primary role of the missionaries was to train local church leaders. He worked with scores of new churches in the Southwest region of Korea and founded Honam Theological Seminary, which is now a thriving institution with 900 students in the city of Gwangju.
Dr. Brown’s leadership in international missions led to his appointment in 1973 as Director of International Missions for the Southern Presbyterian Church, headquartered in Atlanta, a position he held until 1981. His leadership and expertise helped the denomination establish true partnerships with national churches around the world. From 1981-1989, he was Professor of World Christianity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, and also served as a special consultant on China for the Presbyterian Church.
He authored six books on the church in Asia, as well as Face to Face: Meditations on the Life Everlasting, a guide to helping people understand the end of life. At age 81 he returned to Gwangju to participate in the centennial of the founding of the Presbyterian hospital in that city. Honam Seminary awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in 2012. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mardia Hopper Brown, also a child of missionaries. They met in Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea, where both were attending high school. Without Mardia’s love and support he would not have been able to live such a full and purposeful life.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by five children and their spouses, 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The children are: Mary Brown Bullock, George Thompson Brown, Jr. and Bruce Perrin Brown, all of Atlanta; Charlotte Brown Hill of Orlando, Florida; and William Barron Brown of Herndon, Virginia. He was preceded in death by his brother, Frank A. Brown, Jr.
The memorial service will be held Sunday, January 26 at 3:00 pm at Decatur Presbyterian Church.