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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Life, experience make up for lack of education

Monday, June 21, 2004

Junior Brown
CHARLESTON - Riley "Junior" Brown may not have ever received a formal education but he has had plenty of experiences to make up for that.

"Life and experience," is what Brown refers to as his education.

Brown grew up in Peafield Sewer, east of Wyatt. "I grew up a couple hundred feet from the levee," he said.

He remembers fleeing to Wyatt during the flood of 1937. "The levee busted that night in front of our house," he said. "Our house was turned upside down. That was something to see. We went back one time to see if we could save anything and we couldn't."

This is one of the first hurdles Brown remembers working to overcome. His mother also died when he was only 9 years old. His family situation, as well as location, prevented him from receiving an education.

"I never got to go to school. I just never had the opportunity," Brown said. "There weren't any schools where I grew up. I would have had to walk to Charleston to go to school," he said. This trip would be about 10 miles one way. Growing up on a farm, he learned to drive truck, haul grain and of course, farm.

"I've farmed ever since I was a kid," Brown said. "It was just a job I enjoyed."

Although he never learned to read, he has driven trucks all over. He said: "Well, I've drove just about all over the United States except for California."

Brown fondly remembers his driving days. "It was a good life," he said.

And he always knew where he was going. "I never was lost. They told me where to go and I'd go," Brown said. "It just came to me."

He recalls a comment one of his old bosses said. "He said that he's had college graduates call him, lost on the road. But I've never gone to school and I never called."

Brown, 77, quit driving cross-county in 1993, because it was painful on his legs. "I'd had a farm accident and my legs were crippling up," he said.

There are other medical problems, too. Brown has had seizures, heart attacks, strokes, and broken bones.

Yet, he still has a fighting spirit and he is still on the go, contrary to what his doctors have recommended.

"I'm not going to give up," he said. "If I'd have given up when they told me to, I'd have been dead. If you don't work, you don't last long."

For Brown, who has never known anything but work, it is hard work to do nothing. "I grew up working and never knew anything else," he said.

After Brown's last seizure, his doctors prohibited him from driving for six months. "That's hard to do," Brown said.

He still finds plenty to keep him busy though. "I can't sit around...I'm not going to just sit around if I can go out and do something," he said. "I find something to do. I'll do something whether I do it right or not," Brown said.

Brown also works outdoors mowing lawns. His doctors allow him to do this, as long as he does it in the early morning to avoid overheating. "I mow about 12 lawns in town and two out in the county," Brown said.

More changes have come Brown's way over the past year. In December, he and his wife, Ruth, moved from their country home into town to live with their daughter, Vanessa. Since his first seizure in November 2003, they were no longer able to stay by themselves. At their daughter's home, someone is with them around the clock.

Although everything worked out for Brown, he realizes the value of education. "I could have had some good jobs if I'd have had an education," he said.

Brown wants to ensure that his descendants all receive an education. "I tell them, you don't know what it is like without an education," he said.

All eight of Brown's children went to school, with some going on to college. He now encourages his grandchildren to further their education. "I tell my grandchildren that education is an important thing nowadays," Brown said. "If I had the opportunity, I'd go. I've just never had the opportunity."