Obituary of Rear Admiral F. Taylor Brown (1925-2011)

Ex-Navy aviator set world records

By Jake Sandlin (Arkansas Online)

LITTLE ROCKLITTLE ROCK; Francis Taylor Brown, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, former test pilot and ex-general manager for Falcon Jet Corp. in Little Rock, died Monday in a one-car accident on Rebsamen Park Road in Little Rock.

Brown, 85, was pronounced dead at the scene after the Lincoln Continental he was driving suddenly swerved, left the road and wedged between two trees, police said.

The cause of death hadn’t been determined Tuesday afternoon, according to the Pulaski County coroner’s office, but a preliminary report indicated that Brown died from multiple traumatic injuries from the crash. His wife, Shirley Brown, 72, was in the crash and remained hospitalized at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon, according to family.

As a test pilot, Brown set a world time-to-climb record in 1962 in a test F4H-1 Phantom Jet, reaching an altitude of 65,000 feet in 2 minutes, 58.5 seconds from a standing start, according to an autobiographical account Highlights of My Life that Brown completed in 2007.

“He was the kind of guy who wrote down everything he did,” said Tom Pugh, who provided a copy of the book. Pugh is father-in-law to Brown’s step-daughter, Cindy Pugh.

“He was the kind of guy who can’t sit still,” Tom Pugh said. “After he retired from Falcon Jet he bought old houses around town and did a lot of the rewiring and work himself.”

Brown, born in Ashland, Wis., got a chance right out of high school at Navy flight training during World War II when the Navy opened the training in 1943 to high school graduates instead of applicants with two years of college. He went on active duty and flew the F6F Hellcat in fighter training in 1945-46.

“He became one of the top Navy test pilots,” said Bill Whitworth, a friend who helped compile a list of Brown’s many achievements Tuesday. “He then flew combat missions. He became an admiral and later was an executive with a company that manufactured private jets. He did have a very unusual life.”

In 1948, Brown flew an FJ-1 at 489.53 mph to win the prestigious Bendix Trophy cross-country air race for the jet division category, for which he received a plaque with his name inaccurately listed as “F. E. Brown” instead of F.T. Brown. Brown went by F. Taylor Brown.

Brown served combat tours in the Vietnam War, flying 24 combat missions between August 1964 and December 1965, according to a career summary provided by Cindy Pugh. As commander of the Air Wing Nine, USS Ranger, Brown led the first coordinated Navy Air Force attacks against North Vietnam in 1965, according to the summary.

He flew more than 65 kinds of aircraft and established two national and world records in aviation, according to a November 1991 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette profile article. He was recipient of two Distinguished Flying Crosses and two air medals, according to his career summary. While assigned to the Naval Air Special Weapons Facility in 1954, he was a ground observer during tests of atomic bombs north of Las Vegas.

He was commanding officer of the USS Inchon, a helicopter carrier, in 1971 before his promotion to rear admiral assigned to the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. He later was a defense attache for the U.S. State Department in London.

Brown retired from the Navy after 36 years in 1979, but at age 54, wanted a second career, according to his autobiography. He took a managing job with Falcon Jet in 1980, according to his autobiography.

Brown then became senior vice president and general manager at Falcon Jet in 1985 before retiring after 11 years there in April 1991.

For his leadership at Falcon Jet, Brown was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame in October 1991. The honor is usually reserved for native Arkansans, but can be for non-natives who made a significant contribution to aviation in Arkansas.

“His contribution in that respect was his service to Falcon Jet Corp. in Little Rock,” said Dick Holbert, president of Central Flying Service in Little Rock and co-founder of the Arkansas Aviation Historical Society, and a former neighbor of Brown’s. “And he was just such a very, very nice gentleman.”

On moving to Arkansas, Brown wrote in his book, “I consider myself an Arkansan. And I’m sure I will be for the rest of my life.”

Tom Pugh called Brown a “most unusual character” because of all he accomplished in his life.

“He had many illustrious years in the military,” Pugh said. “He set a national speed record flying. He was commander of a carrier and a military attache. He just got into a little bit of everything.

“He was the kind of guy that I was thrilled to have known in my lifetime,” Pugh added.

Article by Jake Sandlin from Arkansas Online in association with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette,