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Submitted by McCreary County Museum
Eddie Lowell Brown and Nedra Kathryn Sampson were married December 28, 1955. Eddie met Nedra at the Stearns Pool and, after a while, she agreed to go out with him. She was hesitant at first, because she thought he was too old for her. They were married in the parsonage of the Whitley City First Baptist Church with Pastor Whicker serving as officiant. The couple paid Pastor Whicker with money Nedra earned working in Boyer’s Dime Store in Whitley City.
In May of 1956, Eddie was drafted into the US Army and was stationed in Camp Hanford in Washington, where plutonium for the first atomic bomb was produced. He was assigned to a Guided Missile Battalion that protected the Hanford Plant. The production of plutonium was ongoing throughout his time of service at the camp. There were eight reactors that operated at Hanford during its decade tenure in the 1950s, and the Department of Defense established Anti-Aircraft Artillery sites throughout the top-secret nuclear facility. Most of the soldiers assigned to Camp Hanford were unaware of what was being developed there. The base closed on March 31, 1961.
Eddie shared that he slightly exaggerated his typing skills during his interview with the SGT Major and was assigned as S1Clerk. “That was the best job I could have, and I was happy to get it. I spent my time typing bulletins, memorandums, notifications of promotions, and basically had the go of the place. The SGT Major was named Green, and he trusted me to be in charge during his absence. Due to the secretive nature of the base, it was a No-fly zone. We were constantly undergoing practice drills and the only plane I ever knew that flew over Camp Hanford was Air Force One with President Dwight D. Eisenhower onboard. He was on his way to Seattle, Washington. One interesting thing that happened while I was there is in regard to Commander Kollegen. He had been in the German Army and one of my jobs was to immediately alert everyone if anyone came into the office. He got by me somehow and was standing beside me. He greeted me by saying, “Howdy!” He was a good Commander and one I enjoyed working for. Before he left, we had an incident of drugs in A-Battery. I had to type all the court martials and make seven copies of each on a hand mimeograph machine, so that took quite some time. When Colonel Kollegen was transferred, he asked me to write letters of commendation for all his subordinates. I prepared the commendations and gave them to him. The day he left, we found a letter of commendation for me he had written himself and left on his desk. That was quite an honor to me,” Brown said.
The base was situated in an isolated area forty miles from the closest town. Eddie had to cross the Columbia River, via ferry guided by a steamboat. The young couple lived in a Quonset hut before moving into a small apartment in the town of West Richland, Washington. It was very cold, and they felt they would freeze to death. Their first child, a beautiful baby girl, named Lisa, was born in Richland on a bitter night with the temperature registering twenty-two below zero. Nedra washed diapers outside in a cold wash house and hung them to freeze dry outside. After a brief period, Nedra and Eddie were fortunate to procure an apartment in a home that served as an officer’s quarters. A former GE engineer had purchased the home and renovated it into four apartments, one of which the Browns rented.
Prior to serving in the US Army, Eddie taught in a one room school in McCreary County, during the 1955-1956 school year. In 1958, after serving with the US Army, he taught at McCreary County High School, followed by a year at Pasco Junior High in Dade County, Florida. From 1961-1966, he taught at Pine Knot High School,then McCreary High School from 1968-1970. Their second daughter, Leslie, was born July 27, 1962, while he was teaching at Pine Knot High School. He served as Principal of Pine Knot High School during the 1971-1972 school term, and Whitley City Elementary from 1972-1973. From 1974-1981, he was Director of Federal Programs for the McCreary County School System. In 1981, Eddie was elected Superintendent of McCreary County Schools and served in this capacity until his retirement March 1, 1994. Eddie and Nedra welcomed their grandson, A.T., in 2004, and he became the joy of their lives.
As a lifelong educator, Eddie is most proud of his work with The Council for Better Education. Founded in May of 1985, this council represented sixty-six of Kentucky’s one hundred eighty districts in a claim that Kentucky’s school finance system favored wealthier districts at the expense of poorer districts and that the state did not spend enough money equalizing resources. “At the time, Kentucky provided minimum financial support per pupil and used an equalization formula based on property taxes,” Brown recalled. “Due to much of McCreary County’s property being owned by the National Park Service and US Government, our county, and that of some other counties, received little funding. While this stance was unpopular with many taxpayers at the time due to an increase in the local property tax, it has been responsible for a significant increase in the amount of funding rural school districts receive. The minor increase in property tax allowed us to get back $6 for every $1 we raised. Some of the educational initiatives these funds enabled us to accomplish were full day kindergarten and pre-school, an increase in the amount of funds teachers received for use in their classrooms, and pay raises for all employees. The school system has thrived ever since with new buses and building programs,” he said.
During his tenure as Superintendent of McCreary County Schools, two middle schools were built and the escrow for Whitley City Elementary and Pine Knot Elementary was established. “McCreary County was fortunate to have Allan Chapman as Board Treasurer during this time. His dedication and expertise were vital as we secured needed revenue for our schools. I felt joining the other sixty-five counties in this lawsuit was the best way to help our students. We only had one shot to obtain equal funding for our students and we had to take it”, Eddie said.
When asked about some of his high school and college memories, Eddie said, “My father, Archie Brown, was elected as McCreary County Judge Executive when I was in high school. From him, I learned the value of public service and hard work. In 1952, while a student at Cumberland College, the McCreary County Courthouse burned. I got a job doing hard manual labor assisting Bill Brown from Hazard, Kentucky, who was an excellent brick mason. We dug the foundation/footers, and my job was to hold the steel while someone above me used a sledgehammer to pound it into the sand rock. Another job I had was to sit on a scaffold and catch bricks thrown up to me, which I gave to Bill. This was not an efficient way to move material, so Bill and I drove to Huntington, West Virginia, and bought an elevator to more efficiently move construction equipment, such as brick and mortar. We cleaned a lot of the white bricks from the courthouse that burned and reused them. These bricks are located on the side of the courthouse, closest to the office of David Price. If you look closely, you can tell they are slightly different from the other bricks,” he shared.
Eddie Lowell Brown and his wife, Nedra, who was also an educator, impacted the lives of many, especially their students. Eddie has served as a deacon at Stearns First Baptist Church for fourteen years, and both he and Nedra sang in the church choir. In 2023, Eddie was honored as the recipient of the J.C. and Azalie Egnew Lifetime Achievement Award. This prestigious award is presented by the McCreary County Museum Advisory Committee and the McCreary County Heritage Foundation to an individual or organization who has unselfishly worked for the benefit of McCreary County.
Eddie is excited about the upcoming renovations to the Stores 1 and 3, and looks forward to seeing Stearns restored. “It is a unique place, and I am happy to have spent most of my life here. I currently enjoy attending church and spending time with my daughters, son-in-law, David Price, and my grandson A. T., ” he said.
For comments or further information contact Debbie Kidd-Trammell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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January 10, 2024 | No Comments »