Remembering Jean Smith Brown
Jean Smith Brown, long time resident of Lincoln, and community fixture in Loudoun County died January 15, after a short illness.
Brown is survived by her daughter, Sara Brown, her son in law, Scott Maison, and her beloved grandchildren Hannah and William, all of Lincoln. She leaves behind sisters Page Smith of Georgetown, Lucy Albritton of Alabama, brother Admiral Leighton Smith of North Carolina, and nieces Page Lewis, Captain Dorothy Milbrandt, Rollins Thorpe and nephew, Leighton Smith. Brown is also survived by a rich legacy of community activism, historical preservation, a deep love of Loudoun County’s rural heritage, and great hope for her future.
Brown was born June 14, 1938, Jean Elizabeth Smith and grew up in Mobile, Alabama. She attended one year of college at Auburn University, before she began a career as a secretary on Capitol Hill for various congressmen and committees. It was there she met her future husband, then-Assistant Parliamentarian for the US House of Representatives, William Holmes Brown. After a protracted friendship and brief courtship, they married and settled down to her husband’s eight-generation family farm in Loudoun County, Oakland Green Farm.
Brown settled into Loudoun County life, and soon enough came along daughter Sara.
Brown worked as a secretary to local Christian writer, Catherine Marshall who lived in Lincoln until her death. As Loudoun County grew, it became clear that neither the local zoning regulations nor the water quality was ready for all the new neighbors.
Brown and her husband were instrumental in establishing the Goose Creek Historic and Cultural Conservation District, which placed more than 11,000 acres on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
She opened Oakland Green as a Bed and Breakfast, and quickly learned that the local ordinances were not ready for rural businesses like B&Bs. She gathered together with a few other innkeepers in the county to start the Loudoun Bed and Breakfast Guild, which still advocates for B&Bs and Inns in Loudoun.
Brown possessed an artist’s talent for flowers and gardens. She was active in the Leesburg Garden Club for many years, serving as President as well as chairing Historic Garden week. She served three terms on the Garden Club of Virginia’s Conservation Committee and chaired the GCV Conservation Forum.
The Brown’s put their farm in a permanent conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in the mid 1990s. The farm now boasts its 10th generation and is named a Virginia State Certified Centennial Farm – continuously farmed by the same family for more than 100 years. Twice Brown won the Clean Water Farm Award and was named Conservation Farmer of the year.
She also served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Virginia Agricultural Council.
In practice of her fierce love of Loudoun County she served in many capacities to protect her historic and natural beauty and to encourage small businesses to thrive. These include seats on the Zoning Ordinance Action Group, the Rural Economic Development Council, and the Historic District Review Committee.
Brown served for decades on the Loudoun Hospital Ladies Board, the Board of the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Advisory Boards of Scenic Virginia and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.
She was a member of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition, and was named Preservationist of the Year by the Loudoun Preservation Society.
In her life she was known not just as a preservationist, but a civic activist. She worked tirelessly with the League of Women Voters, spending countless hours in high schools registering young people to vote. She understood that the threats that democracy faces come from an under-informed and inactive electorate. She was well known to have carried voter registration forms everywhere she went, and if anyone dared admit they were not registered, they soon were.
At the center of Jean Brown’s life was a deep and abiding faith in God, which guided her daily. She practiced that faith through music. She was a founding member of the Washington Choral Arts Society and sang in her church choirs all her life, most recently at St. James Episcopal in Leesburg, even recently travelling to England to sing.
In lieu of flowers please consider a contribution to the Loudoun Preservation Society, or the League of Women Voters of Loudoun. Please send a check with “Jean Brown Memoriam” in the memo line. The addresses are: Loudoun Preservation Society, P.O. Box 351, Leesburg, VA 20178, and League of Women Voters of Loudoun, P.O. Box 822, Leesburg, VA 20178.