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Riverview High mourns loss of longtime principal Edward Brown Jr.

One retired teacher called Brown Jr. "The founding father of Riverview High School."

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Hailed as a beloved educator and administrator who dedicated most of his career to Riverview High School, retired high school principal Edward Brown Jr. has died at the age of 95.

Appointed as the school’s first assistant principal when it opened in 1958, Brown became principal in 1961, where he remained until he retired in 1990. 

Edward Brown Jr. retired as principal of Riverview High School in 1990.
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He is widely credited with successfully guiding the fledgling school in its early years and leaving a lasting legacy of academic success.

Josephine Ivey, a retired teacher of 46 years — 35 of them at Riverview — described Brown as the driving force of the school since its inception.

“Mr. Brown got me involved in extracurricular activities by making me the cheerleading coach. I didn't want it, but he never took no for an answer,” Ivey said. “I told him I would only take it if he would make me the interim coach. He used to tease me by asking how many years was I the interim coach. I think it was 22.”

It was that power of persuasion, tempered with a great measure of respect for the faculty, that was central to establishing a firm foundation for the school in its early years. Only 32 when he was named assistant principal of a brand-new school, he motivated by demonstrating respect for his faculty and staff. He placed trust in them to do the job, and to do it well.

"Mr. Brown was known to find the most amazing faculty members. He was very particular about who he hired, and that was back in the days when he really had kind of a free hand to hire,” Ivey said. “His philosophy was to hire good teachers and leave them alone. He expected you to do your job in the classroom, and as long as you did you were fine. But if you didn’t, he was the first to call you out. He would always support you with parents on the outside, but if you did something wrong you'd hear about it when he you got in his office. 

“But we all admired him. We all respected him. He was a man of integrity. Just a really good person.” Then she added, "He's definitely the founding father of Riverview High School."

Edward Brown Jr. was a native of Sarasota and a graduate of Sarasota High School, which coincidentally was where the Riverview football team played its home games during the school’s early years. It wouldn’t be long before he would spearhead an effort to build a stadium on the Riverview Campus, without spending a dime of public money, known as the Ram Bowl.

“He had a committee that was determined to do this without any cost to county, and they had all kinds of fundraisers and had all kinds of money donated,” Ivey said. “He was the kind of man that if he had an idea to make Riverview better, he was going to get it done. And that’s what happened with the Ram Bowl. He wanted that Ram Bowl. He did not want to play at Sarasota High School anymore. He wanted our own facility and so he was determined he was going to get that.”

And get that he did. The Ram Bowl was dedicated in 1973.

Former Riverview High School principal spearheaded efforts to build the Ram Bowl, which was constructed without taxpayer money and dedicated in 1973.
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In 2015, Brown received the Legacy Award from the Riverview High School Distinguished Hall of Fame. A dedication to him on the Hall of Fame’s website reads:

“Those who had the opportunity to work for him speak of his honesty, integrity, professionalism and dedication to Riverview High School. Our school had a firm foundation on which to build and achieve greatness because of the outstanding teachers, coaches and administrators that he recruited to be a part of the RHS family. Thank you, Mr. Brown, for your commitment to excellence and setting high standards that have made our school outstanding.”

In a speech delivered at the first Riverview High School Retired Faculty Staff Reunion in November 2015, faculty member and Riverview graduate Ron Car said of Brown, “He was the one constant in the frequently changing leadership in a school that was trying to establish an identity. As an assistant principal and principal, Mr. Brown established the perfect leadership style for an up-and-coming school. His philosophy was rather simple — hire the best possible person for the job and then encourage that individual to achieve excellence in the classroom. 

“For over 30 years and under his direct leadership, that philosophy allowed Riverview to become one of the best of the best. Those of us who had privilege of working with Mr. Brown, thank him for believing in us, for supporting us, for making our time at Riverview special and productive.”

Special, in no small part, to the work environment he fostered.

“He really wanted it to be a family atmosphere. I remember when we came in 1974 we were invited to a faculty get-together before school started,” Ivey said. “Everybody was there. All the staff was there, their spouses, their kids, grandkids if they had them, and he had a huge cookout for us. He just believed in being a family. And we felt that we were part of something special.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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