Brown, Thomas J. ”"Tommy" (P1, C2 L5)
Sergeant Thomas J. "Tommy" Brown of Madisonville, Hopkins County, Kentucky, age 34, drowned in the Pond River at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, 23 January 1937 while on state active duty in response to the flood of 1937 approximately one half mile west of Jewel City in nine feet of flood water. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion of the 149th Infantry from Madisonville. He is the only known Kentucky National Guardsman who perished on duty during the great flood of 1937. According to newspaper accounts, Brown and Second Lieutenant James L. Moore, Assistant Postmaster; Private C. W. Anthony and a civilian, Emmett Ashby, a teacher at Friendship school; were in a boat commandeered from Spring Lake and equipped with an outboard motor. The boat’s stern came apart from the vibrations from the outboard motor and quickly sank by the stern throwing all four into the nine-foot deep water within seconds. The other three were able to swim to shallow waters. Moore and Anthony were able to complete the sixty foot swim despite wearing regulation military equipment including a military storm coat, gum boots and fully loaded cartridge belts. All three suffered from exposure and shock standing in eighteen inches of water for some fifteen minutes before they were rescued by a second boat. They were treated at a nearby home. Brown was last seen clinging to the boat bow debris as the three swam to shallow water but had sunk from sight by the time the three were standing in the shallower water.
Rescuers searched the rest of the day and through the night and were able to eventually recover the boat. The waters continued to rise in the area from nine feet to eighteen feet by the next day complicating efforts to recover his body. His body was recovered a week later at the spot he was lost. The Guardsmen were on a survey mission to assess conditions in Ashbyburg and Jewel City area as the flood advanced into those areas and Ashby was catching a ride to Ashbyburg in hopes of getting closer to his home. Brown was a butcher in civilian life at the Red Front Grocery then on West Center Street in Madisonville and was married and had one son. Brown’s battalion commander, Oren Coin, wrote a letter to a legislative committee on the widow’s behalf in December of 1937 seeking some sort of relief for his family. Sergeant Brown’s death most likely was the beginning of the push for the state’s death gratuity for Kentucky National Guardsmen who die on State Active Duty missions. Brown is buried at the East Lawn Cemetery in Hanson, Hopkins County.
Sergt Brown Of Guard Drowns
Was Engaged In Rescue Work At Time
The State Journal [Frankfort, Ky], 24 January 1937, p. 1.
Madisonville, Ky., Jan. 23 (AP) Sergeant Tommy Brown, 35, of the Kentucky National Guard, drowned while on flood duty in Pond River near Slaughters, Ky., today.
The motor boat in which he and three companions, Second Lieut. J. L. Moore, assistant postmaster here; Private C. W. Anthony, and Emmet Ashby a teacher at Friendship school capsized when the outboard fell off. His companions who swam to shore suffered from exposure. They had gone to a flood marooned school house to get some of Ashby's possessions.
Brown, a butcher, was a member of Headquarters Company of the Kentucky National Guard. He is survived by his widow and one child. The body had not been recovered tonight.
Flood Victim Buried Sunday
Madisonville Messenger, 1 February 1937, p. 1.
Sergeant Tom Brown, 33, of Madisonville Headquarters Company, Kentucky National Guard, drowned January 23 while on a flood relief mission near Jewel City, was accorded military honors at his funeral at 9 o’clock Sunday morning, about twenty-four hours after his body had been recovered from twenty feet of water at the approximate spot where he was seen last. Funeral was conducted by the Rev. W. C. Frank, pastor of the First Methodist Church, at the home of Arthur E. Shelton, 137 South Scott, a brother-in- law of Sgt. Brown, and the burial took place at Providence Church, near Hanson.
Pallbearers were: First Lieutenant J. K. Ramsey, company commander, Second Lieutenant J. L. Moore, Sergeant Robert Virgil Hall, Houston Parker, C. E. Sanderson and Roy D. Maraman. Sergeant Brown is survived by his widow, Mrs. Mary Utley Brown; his son, Herbert Brown, and his father, Marvin Brown, Sebree.
Coroner Carl Hoffman conducted an inquest Saturday afternoon at the Barnett Funeral Home, the verdict of which was ”accidental drowning while in the line of duty.”
Above Tom Brown, his wife Mary and their son Thomas Kirby Brown.
Below Tom Brown and son Thomas Kirby Brown.