Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Recently, by chance, I met Linda Billman, Floyd "Brownie" Lewis' daughter (he is pictured sitting on the hay bale, above), at a book club function in Fort Worth. The group decided to read Jim Dent's book, Twelve Mighty Orphans, for its selection in January 2010, and Linda raised her hand to note that her father was on the famous Mighty Mite team. She stood up to tell the ladies what The Home meant to her dad and how he considered his father and brothers to be those who cared for him there. He always thought holidays were very special because most kids headed to stay with extended families over the school break and he was always aware of those (like Hardy Brown) who had nowhere to go. Linda said he always appreciated his own family and those less fortunate yet, like many of that "Greatest Generation" she said her Dad didn't talk about himself much so she, like others, have enjoyed seeing this story unfold and realizing how significant the time, place and circumstances were in the lives of the orphans.

Brownie emulated his mentor's career path. Just as Mr. Russell left school to serve in World War I, Brownie, (as did many of his teammates), enlisted and headed off to defend the U.S. in World War II. Like C.D. Sealy, Brownie enlisted in the Marines and fought in the South Pacific. He later became co-captain of the SMU football team and an All-Southwest Conference selection at guard, playing under Rusty Russell who by then was on the SMU coaching staff. He briefly played professional football, but was considered too small for the NFL. He owned and operated the Brownie Lewis Door Company.

Linda, who has her father's big brown eyes (hence his nickname, "Brownie"), said her father went on after SMU into coaching in Texas, and one of his players was the famous SMU and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith. The photo above is from a function while the Russells and Brownie were affiliated with SMU. It was so much in Mr. Russell's character to stay suited up in his own style... all the time, regardless of the occasion. He was very much aware of the example he set for others. While everyone else wears western attire for a Cullen Ranch SMU function and Juanita wears her fancy cowboy boots for the occasion, Russell remains in his signature coat and tie. He sought to reflect character, integrity and honor in all he did and to make a difference in the lives of others. Linda was not aware of the forces that molded her father until she read the book and began to put her own father's story together. He died March 12, 1988. Her father's number was #25 at Masonic Home.



Blogger Angie said...

I am Brownie Lewis's great niece. I absolutely loved this book, given to me by my grandmother, Brownie's sister, Mildred Lewis Whelan. 12 Mighty Orphans was not only a great read, but it also gave me insight into my grandmother and her siblings childhood...and I thought my family only 'breathed football' because we live in Texas!

August 1, 2010 at 8:02 AM  

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