A native of Marion, Perry County, William Garrott Brown (1868-1913) was a historian and essayist during the early years of the twentieth century. He was best known for his collection of essays titled The Lower South in American History.
William Garrott Brown was born on April 24, 1868, to Wilson Richard and Mary Cogswell Parish Brown; he was the youngest of eight children. He was educated in Marion and graduated from Howard College (present-day Samford University) with a bachelor of arts degree in 1886. After a year of independent study, he accepted a position at Marion Military Institute teaching English.
After two years of teaching, Brown entered Harvard University with junior standing in 1889 and received both a bachelor's (1891) and a master's (1892) degree in history. He then accepted a position in the archives in the Harvard library, and in 1896 was appointed Deputy Keeper of University Records. During the 1901-1902 academic year, he served as a lecturer in the History Department, but Brown began experiencing increasing deafness, making teaching difficult.
The period from 1900 to 1905 was Brown's most productive. He published no less than seven books during these years, including two volumes in the Houghton Mifflin Riverside Biographical Series, Andrew Jackson (1900) and Stephen Douglas (1902) and a stand-alone biography of Oliver Ellsworth. He also produced his best known work, The Lower South in American History (1902), a collection of essays that includes pieces on Alabama political figures William Lowndes Yancey and Richmond Pearson Hobson, along with discussions of the Ku Klux Klan, race relations, and southern history. His A History o f Alabama, for Use in the Schools (1900) also came from this period.
Brown's one attempt at fiction was a romance set in the antebellum period and titled A Gentleman of the South: A Memory of the Black Belt, from the Manuscript Memoirs of the late Colonel Stanton Elmore (1903). It was not a critical success.
Brown was plagued by ill health, and in 1906 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
From 1910 on, he was primarily bedridden and died on October 19, 1913, in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Works by William Garrott Brown
Andrew Jackson (1900)
J. Pickett (1900)
The Lower South in American History (1902)
The Foe of Compromise, and Other Essays (1903)
A Gentleman of the South: A Memory of the Black Belt From the Manuscript Memoirs of the Late Colonel Stanton Elmore (1903)
The Life of Oliver Ellsworth (1905)
The New Politics, and Other Papers (1914)
Few, William P. "William Garrott Brown." South Atlantic Ouarterly 13 (January 1914): 67-74.
Stephenson, Wendell H. "William Garrott Brown: Literary Historian and Essayist." Journal of Southern History 12 (August 1946): 313-44.
Rickey D. Best
Auburn University at Montgomery
Published September 10, 2009
Last updated August 15, 2012