Timothy Brown (1889-1977)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice
Chief Justice (1962-1964)
"Timothy Brown was a great man with many laudable interests and accomplishments in many fields. His activities in sailing, literature, and public and civic service are legend in this community." - Chief Justice Bruce F. Beilfuss, Brown's memorial service (1977)
Timothy Brown was born February 24, 1889, and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1911 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1914. He returned to Wisconsin and practiced law in Milwaukee for two years.
During World War I, Brown joined the U.S. Navy as a seaman and served on a destroyer overseas. He chose the Navy because of his lifelong love of sailing. As a boy, he sailed on Lake Mendota.
After discharge from the Navy, Brown returned to Madison to practice law. He served as a Dane County court commissioner until 1949 and also as executive counsel to governors Walter S. Goodland and Oscar Rennebohm.
In 1949, Brown filled three months of a term on the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and was then appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Brown became the chief justice on May 1962, upon the death of Chief Justice Grover L. Broadfoot.
According to a colleague, Brown had a "pixy-like" quality about him and was "full of fun." As chief justice, Brown requested that the tall, stiff ceremonial chairs behind the bench in the Hearing Room be replaced with comfortable chairs during oral argument. A colleague noted that when the salesperson brought sample chairs for the justices to try out, Brown, who was rather short, sat in one that he liked and commented that it was the first time as a justice that his feet were able to touch the floor.
During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Brown figured prominently in a decision which declared a state law that forced children to pay child support for their parents to be unconstitutional. Brown is also known for his role in overturning a lower court ruling that unions could be prohibited from picketing.
Brown retired at the end of his term in January 1964. In addition to being an active alumnus at the University of Wisconsin, Brown was a longtime officer of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which he co-founded.
His wife Margaret Titchener died in 1936. They had one son, Timothy, Jr. Brown later married Louise Coxon. He died on December 31, 1977.