WHITE HALL — Victor Lee “Vic” Brown was seemingly at his best when aiding others.
“He was a man of grace and dignity,” retired Pine Bluff Alderwoman Irene Holcomb said of Brown, a former Pine Bluff political leader and businessman who died Friday, Feb. 22, at the age of 85. “It’s rare when you’ve never heard anything but kind words about a former politician and car dealer, but I’ve never heard anything but good about Vic Brown. He was honest and caring and almost always busy, but I can’t recall him ever being too busy to help someone else. He was the type of person that you were blessed to know.”
Brown, who was buried at Lee Cemetery after a funeral service Monday morning at Ralph Robinson and Son Chapel in Pine Bluff, spent a good part of his life in public service. He was a Dollarway School Board member for 17 years, a Pine Bluff alderman for 12 years and Pine Bluff’s city treasurer for four years. Meanwhile, he sold cars in Pine Bluff for more than half a century — 42 years with Jefferson Motors before owning and operating Vic Brown Motors for a dozen years.
“I felt he was a statesman, an entrepreneur,” Holcomb said. “He was an asset to Pine Bluff, to Jefferson County. We all benefited from his service to the city as a councilman and treasurer, and he made such an impression on the Dollarway School District as a director that the ROTC building was named in his honor. And I know, too, that if it hadn’t been for his kindness, some people here would have had a much harder time buying good, affordable automobiles. In fact, I just don’t know what some folks would have done for a car without him. He had a true compassion for others.”
Greg Gustek worked with and for Brown in the automobile business for 16 years. Gustek, who succeeded Brown as city treasurer, said Brown almost instantly became a father figure to him.
“He was a once-in-a-lifetime boss, the type that if you’re ever lucky enough to have you know you’ve been blessed,” Gustek said. “Whatever problems we might encounter, we worked them out. He cared about me and I knew it, and he knew that I cared about him, too. He treated me like a son, and when I married my wife, Rhonda, he immediately accepted her as a daughter-in-law. We’re going to miss Vic Brown. His family and friends will miss him and Pine Bluff’s going to miss him. This is a big loss.”
Gustek said that through the years, more and more customers developed a notion that he was Brown’s son.
“I got to the point that I wouldn’t correct them when they made that assumption,” Gustek said. “I just decided not to tell them that I wasn’t. It was an honor just to know and work with him, and if people somehow thought that we were father and son, I was proud and pleased. He was such a class act, and just to be compared to him always made me feel good. Everyone who knew him respected him.”
Brown taught him a lot about business and life, Gustek said.
“He stressed the importance of being honest and forward and respectful to everyone, regardless of the situation,” Gustek said. “He didn’t care about what anyone’s status might have been. Everyone was as important as anyone.”
Gustek said that he wouldn’t mind if Brown could somehow be on the current Pine Bluff City Council.
“I’m not saying we don’t have a good city council without him, but Vic’s leadership could certainly be a big plus,” Gustek said. “If you lived in Pine Bluff, he considered you his constituent. It didn’t matter if you lived in his ward or not. I can’t remember anyone ever talking to him about something that he didn’t involve himself with beginning at that very moment. I’ve seen him making phone calls and talking to others for hours to get something done to help someone. He was involved and felt that being an alderman was a full-time job. I’ve seen him study an issue from A to Z before even thinking about voting on it. He felt that being an alderman was an honorable responsibility with which his friends and neighbors had entrusted him.”
“He was a peacemaker as an alderman,” she said. “He sought compromise and reason. Other council members might differ with him at times on a point he stood for, but they never questioned his character, integrity or motivation.”