Horatio Alger, Meet Bryan Brown
In a cynical era, the American Dream is reaffirmed in Bryan Brown. From the ROTC to the SEC, he has made a habit out of exceeding expectations
Published in 2004 Texas Rising Stars magazine
By Jolene Johnson on June 23, 2004
If you’re into statistics, the odds of Bryan Brown’s chances for success back when he was a young boy looked pretty dismal. He grew up in a single-parent household in Houston’s inner city. But one look beyond statistics to the reality of Brown’s family, and his success seems almost assured. The rich example provided to him by his mother and grandmother gave him more than money ever could.
Both his mother, Doris Brown, and grandmother, Gertie Taylor-Eugene, were schoolteachers in the Houston independent school district . His grandmother, who attended Texas Southern University back when it was Texas State University for Negroes, instilled in her family the importance of an education.
Brown says he had no more or no less than most kids his age, but says he was expected to accomplish, even from a young age. “Working hard was not an option,” he says, but was a given, for everyone in his family. “I saw my mom take on second jobs sometimes to help us have what we needed as a family,” he says. “I also had the opportunity to work at fast-food restaurants and other places to truly get a sense of appreciation between a job and a career. It helped instill in me the value of an education.”
Before graduating from Tulane University School of Law, Bryan Brown was already well on his way to becoming a topnotch attorney. Or at least thinking that is what he would be. As a student at the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, a magnet school in Houston, Texas, Brown believed he was destined to be where he is today.
“You know, they had me do this paper about where you see yourself after you graduate high school,” he says. “I recall writing that I wanted to be a partner in a major law firm, a general counsel of a corporation. The ironic thing about that is I didn’t know any corporate lawyers, or any general counsels of corporations. And I really didn’t know what it meant to be or do corporate law at the time.”
He admits: “I didn’t know that even when I started law school.”
Now a partner specializing in securities, mergers and acquisitions at Porter & Hedges, Brown knows exactly what it means to be a “partner in a major law firm.” And he’s living up to all the expectations that go along with it. In fact, Brown has always made it a point to exceed people’s expectations. “I’ve done those things people say just couldn’t be done,” he says.
And he does this in all aspects of his life.
Take, for instance, the time when associates in Brown’s ROTC program told him he shouldn’t apply for the infantry branch. “Everybody said, ‘You’ll never get infantry; you should think about something else. They only take the best of the best,’” he recalls. Brown didn’t back down, and he now recalls of that experience, “The day my mother pinned my gold bars on me and I had my cross rifles on my lapels was probably one of my prouder moments.”
Then there was the time when graduation from law school was looming. One of his favorite professors at Tulane advised him to apply someplace other than the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a place he had long dreamed of working at but a place that is very difficult to get into. He took his professor’s advice — for a little while at least. From 1993 to 1995, he worked at McDermott International in New Orleans, an energy services corporation. But after learning the ropes by serving as corporate and finance counsel at McDermott, he snagged his dream job at the SEC in Washington, D.C. “It was everything I thought it would be and then some,” he says. “It was that good.” Three years later, in 1998, he landed the job at Porter & Hedges.
Brown hopes to pass on his appreciation for education by serving as a mentor in the “I Have a Dream” program, which is an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children succeed in life. For that program, he spent time with some students at South Union Church of Christ in Houston. He and Gail Finley, the director of marketing at Porter & Hedges, played a modified version of the game show Family Feud to help students prepare for the spelling and word comprehension portion on their upcoming standardized tests. “I look at a lot of these kids, and they probably come from environments that are very similar to the one that I came from,” he says. “It’s good for me to provide an example for them.”
When he’s not volunteering in the classroom, Brown also finds time to serve in the boardroom as a member of the Texas State Securities Board, a job Brown was appointed to by Governor Rick Perry in 2002 — and one he takes very seriously. With an MBA in finance from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Sam Houston State University, Brown is an ideal candidate for the job. As a board member, he helps protect Texas investors by making sure there are free competitive securities markets in the state. In fact, according to Brown, the state securities board has helped spearhead investigations resulting in settlements in the $20 million to $30 million range.
So just what’s in store for this 36-yearold lawyer who’s already achieved so much and gained the respect and admiration of so many of his peers? “I was saying the other day that I really want to set a list of goals I want to accomplish by the time I turn 40,” he says. “I haven’t had time to do that list yet. Right now I’m focusing a lot of energy on my practice.”
After a short pause, he adds: “I’m still active in the Reserves. I’m eligible for promotion to major; I currently hold the rank of captain. Maybe [I’ll] go to Airborne School.”
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