Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ditzler Billoat Brown (1875-1951)

   A prominent resident in the city of McMinnville, Tennessee, Ditzler Billoat Brown found distinction in the fields of both publishing and politics during his life, being a founder of the Warren County, Tennessee Times as well as a five-term member of the Tennessee State House of Representatives. Listed by most sources as "Billoat Brown", little information could be found online in regards to his long public career, although a small obituary for him (published in the Southern Standard shortly after his death) came to my rescue in this respect!
  Ditzler Billoat Brown was born in Shiloh, Tennessee on May 26, 1875, the son of Absolom Duskin (1848-1889) and Betty Jane Dykes Brown (1856-1935). While his parents may have blessed him with a rather unusual name, Brown seems to have liked going by the name "Billoat Brown" instead of using his first name "Ditzler". Nearly all of the period sources that mention him list Brown as "Billoat Brown", which can make one wonder if he had some reservations about using his odd first name!
  The Brown family relocated from Shiloh to McMinnville when their son was six years of age,  and no information could be located on his education or schooling. Duskin Brown is listed as dying when his son was fourteen years old, and shortly after his father's passing Brown began work on the staff of the McMinnville Southern Standard. He remained in this employ until 1898 when he was elected to his first public office, that of Circuit Court clerk for Warren County. 
  Brown's tenure as clerk lasted until 1900, and three years later he returned to the field of publishing, helping to found the Warren County Times weekly newspaper with his younger brothers Aaron Burr and William Oatley Brown. This paper enjoyed wide circulation and was a success, with Billoat Brown continuing active involvement in its publication until 1945 when he retired due to health concerns
  On July 17, 1906, Ditzler Billoat Brown married in McMinnville to Rena Hughes (1886-1926) with whom he would have two children, Elizabeth W. (1909-1995) and Franklin H. (1921-1985). Ditzler and Rena were married for nearly twenty years until her death at age 39 in May 1926, and Brown never remarried after her untimely passing.

Brown as he looked during his first term in the Tennessee Assembly, circa 1926.

    While still engaged in the publishing of the Times, Brown began venturing into local public office, holding a seat on the McMinnville City Board of Education as well as the Warren County Board of Election Commissioners. In 1925 he was elected to the first of five terms in the Tennessee State House of Representatives and represented Warren County throughout his tenure in the legislature. He was reelected to this body in 1929 (serving until 1931), 1933-1935, 1935-1937, and for his final term in 1939 (serving until 1941). Brown's Southern Standard obituary also notes that he was a successful campaign manager in addition to his lengthy legislative service, helping guide Democrat Austin Peay (1876-1927) to victory during the Tennessee gubernatorial election of 1923.
   Ditzler Billoat Brown's final term in the legislature concluded in January 1941 and afterward he returned to private life in McMinnville. He is mentioned in his obituary as being the "oldest member of the congregation of the First Methodist Church" and was also a past superintendent of that church's Sunday school. Brown died at his McMinnville home n August 15, 1951, one month after his 76th birthday. His death was noted in his Southern Standard obituary as being the result of a heart condition, and he was shortly thereafter interred at the Riverside Cemetery in McMinnville alongside his wife Rena. The three portraits of Brown contained in his profile here all come from a series of Tennessee Legislative composite portraits taken during his years in the legislature. These pictures can be viewed in their entirety on the Tennessee General Assembly website's House Archives subsection! 
   This portrait of Billoat Brown appeared on the Tennessee Legislative Composite photo of 1939-40.

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