Delmer Myers Brown
University of California, Berkeley
Professor Emeritus in Japanese History
Professor Delmer M. Brown died of a stroke on November 9, 2011. He will long be remembered as a scholar of Japanese history and an administrator who sought to improve the many organizations with which he was affiliated. He contributed significantly to the growth and reputation of both the History Department and Asian Studies at the University of California.
Born on a farm between the towns of Harrisonville and Peculiar, Missouri, Professor Brown lived in Kansas City before the family moved to Santa Ana, California in 1925. He attended Santa Ana Junior College and then Stanford University, where he graduated with a degree in history in 1932. Rather than going to law school he moved to Kanazawa, Japan in 1932 to teach English at a prestigious Japanese Imperial “Higher School.” In 1934 he met and married Mary Nelson Logan in Japan where they remained until 1938 when he began a graduate program in Japanese History at Stanford.
During the Second World War, he was stationed in Honolulu as an intelligence officer in the Navy. After the war he completed doctoral studies at Harvard University for his degree from Stanford, then took an appointment in the History Department of the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught Japanese history from 1946 to 1977. As chairman of the department 1957-1961 and 1972-75 he oversaw its development into one of the best in the country. From 1953 to 1955 he served as Director of the Asia Foundation – first in Hong Kong and then Tokyo. During sabbatical years he did research–as a Fulbright Scholar in Japan 1959-1960, and as Senior Research Scholar at University of Hawaii, 1963.
As one of the “Young Turks” in the 1950’s, he pushed for a major change in History Department policy to select the best candidates for faculty openings, rather than allowing a retiring teacher to be name one of his graduate students as successor. In the 1960’s he was active in resolving conflict between students and administration during the Free Speech Movement, and is credited with crafting a faculty resolution to avert a general strike by students in 1966. In the 1970’s he helped make faculty promotions merit-based, rather than automatic, and promoted the hiring of more women and minority faculty members.
Professor Brown led the Cal Abroad Program in Japan on three different occasions–1967-69 at International Christian University in Tokyo, Fall of 1991, and 1992-93. He served as chair of the state-wide Budget Committee 1965-66 and of the Academic Senate, 1971-72. After retiring from the University he was Director of the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies from 1978 to 1988. There he tried to develop interactive computer programs for mastering language skills and arranged for long term funding for that program.
After retirement he was instrumental in starting the Japanese Historical Text Initiative (JHTI) now administered by the Center for Japanese Studies at UCB. It has created a database of historical texts dating back more than 1200 years, cross-tagged with the English translation. He helped negotiate key agreements with University of Tokyo Press and the National Institute of Japanese Literature to facilitate the inclusion of work printed by various publishers in this online database. He was Executive Director of the Center for Shinto Studies, an Adjunct Professor of Shinto at Starr King Theological Center in Berkeley and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tsubaki Shrine America, in Stockton.
His research was primarily associated with Japanese religious history–both Buddhism and Shinto. Publications include Money Economy in Medieval Japan (1951), Nationalism in Japan (1955), Studies in Shinto Thought, a joint translation of major studies by Muraoka Tsenutsugu (1964); Japan, a volume in Today’s World in Focus (1968) The Future and the Past: A Translation and Study of the Gukanshou (first Japanese interpretive history, written in 1279) with Professor Ichiro Ishida (1979), Chronology of Japan with Toshiya Torao (1987), the Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 1: Ancient Japan (1993) as editor, author, and translator of various articles. Delmer M. Brown–Professor of Japanese History, UC Berkeley, 1946-1977, an oral history conducted in 1995 by Ann Lage, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (2000). Terrorism: Roots and Uprooting, published as an ebook on his website www.summit-strategy.org (current).
Awards include the Berkeley Citation for distinguished achievement and notable service to the University, 1977, Kansha Jo (Certificate of Gratitude) for five years service on the Fulbright Commission in Japan, 1985, and a Japanese Imperial citation—The Order of the Sacred Jewel, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, 1997.
A man who was notoriously upbeat and hopeful, with a wonderful grin and an easy laugh, he credited his longevity to always looking to the future. When confronted with folks resistant to his ideas for change, “why not?” was his usual answer. Professor Irwin Scheiner a colleague in Japanese History at Berkeley wrote “there has been in his character equal parts of naiveté and savvy, always intelligence, and an extraordinary degree of curiosity and openness to new experience.”
Delmer Brown was preceded in death by his wives Mary Nelson Logan Brown in 1987, Margaret Young Brown in 2003, and Louise K. Weamer in 2010, his brothers Clarence Brown in 1919 and Harvey Brown (Ruth) in 2009, and by his only daughter Charlotte Brown Perry (John) in 2011. Survivors include his sisters Margie Windsor (Jack) of Chico, CA and Mary Ashcraft of Texas, son D. Ren Brown (Robert DeVee) of Bodega Bay, CA and two granddaughters in Virginia–Mary Louise Perry Rognlie (Richard) and Carolyn Perry Robbins (Geoffrey), six great grandchildren, three step-children, and his dearly loved companion Pauline Howland of Walnut Creek, CA.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek on Friday, November 18, 2011—two days before what would have been Delmer Brown’s 102nd birthday.