Clarence Brown (1968-2021)
Shonn Evans first met her husband 24 years ago when Clarence Brown, then a young third-year corporate lawyer at Locke Purnell Rain Harrell, interviewed her at the Southeastern Minority Job Fair.
Then a law student at Southern Methodist University, Shonn Evans got the summer clerkship at Locke – now called Locke Lord – and then an offer to join the firm as an associate in litigation in 1998.
But she also got a separate offer from Brown.
“During the summer , Clarence was very specific about seeing if I was interested in joining him for dinner and kept providing dates weeks out – specifically after my clerkship had ended,” Shonn Evans Brown told The Texas Lawbook this week. “In fact, in true corporate lawyer fashion when people asked him when we started dating, I distinctly remember him responding at least on one occasion ‘effective as of September 1.’
“I always say it’s kind of a reverse Barack and Michelle,” she said.
Shonn and Clarence secretly dated throughout her third year of law school and married on Nov. 18, 2000.
“We thought we were doing a great job of keeping things under wraps when I started working at Locke Purnell,” Shonn Brown said. “Little did we know it was one of the worst kept secrets in the office. When we got engaged, Harriet Miers and Hon. Liz Lang-Miers threw us a wedding shower at Harriet’s house for friends and family – so I guess the word definitely seeped out.”
Clarence and Shonn Brown were married for 21 years and became one of the power couples of corporate law in Texas. For the past six years, he was the general counsel of global manufacturer Kronos Worldwide. She is the deputy general counsel of Kimberly-Clark Corporation, a multinational personal care products maker. The couple have three children – Evan Clarence, Ryan Ella Marie and Lily Elizabeth.
Last Friday, Clarence Brown died from complications from a fall at his home in May that caused a serious head injury. He was 52.
“This is a tragic loss,” said Paul Genender, a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and long-time neighbors of the Brown family. “Clarence was a quiet, thoughtful lawyer who led by example. He had a sharp wit with a tinge of sarcasm that never put anyone else down. And he was a great lawyer who was completely unflappable under pressure.”
Michael Hurst, a partner at Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann and close friend of the Brown family, said Brown was “always the best dressed person in the room with an infectious smile.”
“Clarence and Shonn are incredibly well matched,” Hurst said. “Shonn is flamboyant and outspoken. Clarence was understated and measured. Clarence was introverted. Shonn just lets it fly. They were yin and yang. Together, they were one of the best role models and advocates for young African Americans in the legal profession.”
“I’m not necessarily sure what attracted Clarence to me, and he would likely roll his eyes if I started trying to list all of my amazing qualities,” Shonn Brown told The Texas Lawbook.
“What attracted me to him was his uncanny ability to always have a snarky comment but at the same time wise advice. He is the one person who I have been able to be truly vulnerable with. In fact, he saw me through so many life experiences that he is the true reason that I have been able to accomplish [so much] in the profession and in the community.”
The news of Clarence Brown’s death stunned and saddened the corporate law community in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“Nobody could ever say a negative word about Clarence because he was always a nice guy and he always did the right thing and he always looked out for the best interest of others,” said PrimeSource Building Products Chief People and Administrative Officer Chris Willis, who served with Brown as officer of the Texas General Counsel Forum.
“Clarence was thoughtful and deliberative and nothing unnerved him,” said Willis, who was previously the GC at Interstate Batteries. “But mostly he talked about his kids and how he was so proud of them. Like so many others, I am going to miss Clarence very much.”
Julia Simon, the general counsel of Mary Kay and a long-time friend of the Browns, said she and Clarence “became close friends after he stood me up for lunch.” Simon was also a lawyer at Locke Lord.
“He was a couple of years behind me out of law school but started at Locke around the same time,” Simon told The Texas Lawbook. “I made it a point to confirm lunch that morning because we were both busy associates and had a tendency to cancel. When I arrived at our designated meeting spot to walk to lunch, he had his secretary waiting downstairs to advise me that, ‘Mr. Brown is not going to be available.’
“Admittedly we did not have cell phones back then, but I thought it was the funniest thing that this brand new first year associate sent his secretary down like he was a senior partner or something,” Simon said. “It was a running joke for us for the next 27 years.”
“My most lasting memory of Clarence will be how he took time out of his extremely busy schedule to stop by the house to help celebrate my son’s graduation from high school this past May,” she said. “He was sharply dressed as always, demonstrated his sharp wit, and made us all feel important. I am going to carry a bit of Clarence with me always and that is going to make me a better person.”
Clarence B. Brown III was born in Killeen, Texas on Dec. 12, 1968. His parents, Clarence B. Brown, Jr. and Kay Brown were both educators who helped break barriers being among the first Black teachers in the Killeen School district, where they both taught for more than 35 years.
Brown attended the University of Texas, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration with an emphasis on Marketing in 1991. He received his law degree in 1994 from Emory University, where he was on the International Law Review as the Notes and Comments Editor.
In 1994, Brown joined Locke as a lawyer in its corporate and securities practice.
“Early in his practice here, Clarence demonstrated to the firm leadership that he had an impressive breadth in his ability to effectively address legal problems with understandable and sound advice,” Locke Lord senior partner Harriet Miers told The Texas Lawbook. “He was an exceptionally gifted lawyer, with the ability to instill confidence in his advice and guidance both in his colleagues here but also in his clients.
“First and foremost, though, Clarence had the sterling character and judgment that is at the core of any great lawyer,” Miers said. “It is not an overstatement to say that here at Locke ‘beloved’ applies to Shonn and Clarence both, and we are so proud to have been able to claim them both as partners in the firm.”
Locke partner Don Glendenning said Brown “was the total package that a superb general counsel must be.
“He cared about every aspect of the vast international organization that he served – from the welfare of thousands of employees, to compliance with international laws, to integrity and compliance with best practices in every arena, to transparency and dedication to the public shareholders,” Glendenning told The Lawbook.
“He balanced being one of our nation’s most successful general counsel, playing a critical role in the innovative spin-off transaction that created the independent NYSE company Kronos Worldwide, of which he became general counsel, while also being one of the most ideal husbands, fathers and friends imaginable,” Glendenning said. “Clarence was one of the finest lawyers I have ever known. But he was an even better human.”
Glendenning said Clarence Brown benefited from marrying the love of his life and his closest friend.
“Clarence and Shonn have dedicated their lives not only to legal excellence and a broad spectrum of highly-effective philanthropic and civic service, but also to the advancement of mankind in all the ways that matter most, with a particular focus upon diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. “I have had the personal privilege of witnessing their effectiveness in instilling that same principle of elevating every aspect of society in the next generation of the remarkable Brown Family.”
Neiman Marcus Assistant GC Tasha Grinnell describes Brown as her friend, counsel, uncle to her two daughters, a brilliant legal mind and “my fashion consultant.”
“Clarence did not desire to be the center of attention, though his life and legacy impacted the community in a big way,” Grinnell wrote in an email to The Lawbook. “Many may not have known that Clarence was the resident editor for all friends and family and could often be found editing speeches, memorandum, resumes etc. Clarence was always there with a listening ear. Clarence had the gift that many lawyers lack – Clarence was an active LISTENER. He listened more than he spoke.”
Shonn Brown said that her husband actually had two options that he was weighing – go to law school “or enter into the professional buyer’s program at Neiman Marcus.”
“Those of us who know and love him recognize that he would have been phenomenal at Neiman Marcus but effectively transferred those fashionable skills for use with himself and friends – always a sharp dressed man,” she said.
“Clarence really liked the business of the practice of law – he truly enjoyed the mechanics behind how the business deal worked,” Shonn Brown said. “He was the ultimate problem solver and a very creative thinker.”
Brown said her husband “was my hardest interviewer for any job, my biggest critic for my resume re-writes, fashion consultant for any and all events both personal and professional and my largest cheerleader – cheering quietly from the corner.”
“My favorite memories about Clarence involve pretty mundane conversations on the couch or our back porch which evolved into really serious debates,” she said. “We would have intense conversations particularly when we were on opposite sides of an issue and they would be filled with lots of internet research, knowledge exchange and laughter in between.”
What is something that everyone should know about Clarence Brown?
“It is really his ability to connect with people, bringing people together demonstrating superior legal acumen and acting as a loving husband, dedicated father and son,” Shonn Brown said.
The memorial service for Clarence B. Brown, III will be held on Saturday, September 11th from 11:00 am-1:00pm at Concord Church, located at 6808 Pastor Bailey Drive, Dallas, Texas 75237. The memorial service will be live streamed via a link made available prior to the service.