Remembering the life and legacy of former governor John Y. Brown Jr.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Dozens of people poured in Tuesday afternoon to pay respects to the late former Kentucky governor John Y. Brown Junior. Governor Andy Beshear was among the mourners joining the family to remember the legacy Brown left in the state.

Brown was Kentucky’s governor from 1979 to 1983. He ran under the slogan “running government like a business” and did just that in office, bringing in some of the state’s top business leaders to be on his cabinet.

“He kind of, you know, was a mold of his own,” says Dee Emmerson, a former employee of Brown that became a close family friend. “I think he maybe wasn’t your average politician and maybe that’s not even something he initially aspired to be.”

He was well-known for his sports and business investments, including making Kentucky Fried Chicken an internationally known fast food chain, purchasing the ‘Kentucky Colonels’ ABA basketball team and turning management over to his then-wife Ellie Brown and the first all-female board of directors, and helping to establish the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

Many who worked with Brown while he was in office say he was not just a fantastic governor but a fantastic friend. Brown’s friends say he was hilarious, loving and kind.

“I’ll just miss just knowing him and feeling like one of the family,” says Emmerson. “It’s certainly bittersweet to be here [Tuesday] but it’s also wonderful to celebrate ‘the gov’ and great to see everybody, to see all the family, and I’m just so appreciative and feel so blessed to know the whole family. John Y was quite the character. It’s just really a treat and a privilege and an honor to know each and every family member.”

Even Kentuckians who didn’t know him personally say Brown’s character was evident in his leadership.

“The stories about him at the law school are legendary,” says Mary Davis, dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Law. “He was just a remarkable personality and his story about how he used all of the parts of who he was- the great salesman, the great legal analyst, the great problem solver, the great entrepreneur- are just really compelling to us at the law school.”

One thing clear by the crowds at Tuesday’s visitation, John Y. Brown Jr. was greatly loved by the Commonwealth and his legacy will carry through generations.

“He was one of a kind and he’s going to be sorely missed but also beloved and well-remembered,” says Emmerson.

A private memorial service for Brown’s family will be held Wednesday, November 30th. It will be available to watch via livestream at 2 P.M. on KET. More information can be found HERE.

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