A Small Town's Big Fish
Craig Brown plays in the big leagues but lives in the small ones
Published in 2008 Texas Rising Stars magazine
on March 17, 2008
Updated on September 3, 2015
What’s that old saying? Everybody dies famous in a small town,” says Craig Brown, 32, of Cappolino Dodd & Krebs in Cameron, Texas, population about 5,600. That’s his way of saying he’s just fine with being a small-town lawyer, even though he has lived and worked in larger Texas cities.
Brown started out in an even smaller town, born and raised in Karnes City, population 3,457, a farming and ranching community about 60 miles south of San Antonio, where he was born.
“My dad was a math teacher at Karnes City High School, then later the high school counselor,” he says. “My mom was the librarian. They were great teachers. Our family took vacations where we always learned something, visited battlefields, Indian fields, Washington, D.C. My parents showed us the nation. We went to at least 30 states.”
Brown admits he didn’t hit the books much as a teenager. He played guard six years on junior and senior high football teams. “In high school,” he says, “our team did great the first part of the season, but after ‘no pass, no play’ would kick in, we’d lose half our players.”
Still, his parents encouraged him to read and be knowledgeable. “We watched PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer almost every evening,” Brown says.
Once he got to college, he dropped the football and picked up the books. He pushed through the University of Texas in three years, graduating in 1997 with a government major. Still, going to such a big school was quite an adjustment.
“In Karnes City, I knew the richest and the poorest,” he says, “and was exposed to all kinds of people. It was different when I went to UT, where a lot of students self-identified based on labels, like, ‘I’m a punk rocker,’ or ‘I hang with the coffee crowd.’ They needed to create some image.”
During his years in Austin, he worked in the governor’s office and the House of Representatives. He got involved in several political campaigns that taught him, he says, “how things work.” After UT, he got a master’s degree in conflict resolution from St. Edward’s University in Austin.
Karnes City attorney Robert Busselman inspired Brown to attend law school. “People would come to him when they had problems,” Brown says. “He was always willing to help, even when they couldn’t pay. He showed me once how much money he had on the books that people didn’t pay or couldn’t pay. He could have been a rich man, but he was always willing to help. I wanted to be someone people come to for help.”
Now in his 70s, Busselman is the Karnes County attorney. He and other members of the ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) Club meet Saturdays to “make all kinds of decisions for Bush and everybody,” Busselman says. Of Brown, Busselman says, “I never realized I was an inspiration for anybody. When I served as teen court judge, young Craig came in, and I could tell he had worked his case pretty hard. Of course, I would have liked for Craig to stay here. He’s made us all pretty proud.”
Brown’s J.D. is from Baylor Law. “During law school, I became concerned about the way people’s rights are being taken away versus the rights of corporations,” he says.
Today, Brown focuses on mesothelioma litigation against some of the nation’s largest aluminum smelters. He also represents clients injured in commercial trucking accidents.
He and his wife, Suzanne, who is a Texas A&M-educated veterinarian, have twin baby girls, Anna and Grace. During graduate school, the couple picked the Cameron area for their home because it’s about halfway between Baylor in Waco and A&M in College Station. “We love small-town life,” he says. “People care about you, know about you and say hello at the grocery store.”
He misses Karnes City and goes back monthly to have coffee with the ROMEO Club. “Growing up there, I’m better known than I am in Cameron. In Cameron, I’ll always be from ‘somewhere else,’” he says.