Longtime Wichita journalist Randy Brown dies at age 73

07/24/2014 8:57 AM

08/06/2014 12:23 PM

Randy Brown, a long-time Wichita journalist who also taught at Wichita State University and was an advocate for transparency in government, died Wednesday after a long illness. He was 73.

Visitation is planned for 5 p.m. Sunday at Downing and Lahey East, 6555 E. Central. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday at East Heights United Methodist Church, 4407 E. Douglas.

Mr. Brown worked for more than two decades at The Wichita Eagle, including stints as editorial page editor and executive sports editor. He also was senior editor, managing editor and “Live at Five” anchor at KAKE-TV, and an instructor at Wichita State University’s Elliott School of Communication.

He also consistently pushed for open government and worked to improve the state’s open records laws.

In 1973, Mr. Brown was on a team of reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting when he worked at the Omaha Sun.

In Wichita, he was one of the faces of Gridiron, acting as emcee for the stage show produced annually by local journalists. Proceeds from the show provide scholarship money for young journalists.

“He was the voice of Gridiron,” said Denise Neil, an Eagle reporter and former Gridiron producer. “He was so at ease on the stage.

“The cast really missed his presence when he was gone.”

Mr. Brown was born Nov. 25, 1940, in Dallas. He graduated from South Oak Cliff High School in 1958 and later received a degree from the University of North Texas in journalism and secondary education.

He was hired in 1968 by The Eagle as an assistant city editor. In 1970, he moved to Omaha but moved back in 1974 when he was hired to be editor of the Wichita Sun, a start-up paper that lasted about three years. He rejoined The Eagle and worked there and at KAKE.

In 2001, Mr. Brown left The Eagle to teach at WSU’s Elliott School of Communication. He formed a partnership with the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, serving as its executive director.

“Randy Brown was a real bulldog for transparency in government and was a great partner with the other media organizations in Kansas on a number of open government issues through the years,” Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, wrote in an e-mail to The Eagle. “The thing I really admired about Randy was his fearless approach to those in power. His leadership will be missed.”

This past spring, Mr. Brown received the “Above and Beyond” award from the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government for his dedication to open government principles.

In 2007, Mr. Brown was in a serious motorcycle accident just days before the annual Gridiron show was to start. Part of his leg had to be amputated. He couldn’t emcee the show, but the next year he made a comeback, riding a motorcycle onstage.

“Randy was fun to be around; he was quick witted,” said longtime Eagle columnist Bonnie Bing, a Gridiron veteran. “He was a guy who could capture your attention and keep it. He enjoyed making people laugh.”

His family remembers him as “always mentoring and the first person anyone would go to if they had a problem,” said his son, Chris.

Mr. Brown is survived by his wife, Linda Parks; two sons, Chris and Chad; and a daughter, Keisha.

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