Keith Spalding Brown (June 1913 – July 1991) was an American athlete, politician and businessman. He broke the pole vault world record both indoors and outdoors and was also a good high jumper. He later became involved in politics and served as the Republican Party's state chairman in Arizona for two years.

Athletic career

Although Brown had tried pole vaulting early on, he only took it up seriously after being cut from the basketball team of his high school, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.[1] In May 1931, he cleared 13 ft 4+58 in (4.08 m) at an interscholastic meet at the Harvard Stadium, a new national high school pole vault record.[2][3] By doing so, he was following in the footsteps of his uncle Bobby Gardner, who in 1912 had become the first jumper to clear 13 feet (3.96 m).[1][2][3][4]

Brown graduated from Phillips Academy in 1931[5] and went to Yale, which at the time was a top pole vaulting school thanks to its coach A. C. Gilbert.[1] As a freshman in 1932, he jumped 13 ft 10 in (4.21 m) to win the Eastern Olympic Tryouts;[1] at the final Olympic Trials in Palo Alto, he only cleared 13 ft 4 in (4.06 m) and tied for seventh with nine other athletes, failing to qualify for the Olympic team.[6]

Brown helped Yale win the team title at the 1933 IC4A indoor championships.[7] He not only jumped a meet record 13 ft 9+34 in (4.21 m) to tie for first in the pole vault with his Yale teammate Wirt Thompson, he also tied George Spitz of the favored New York University for first place in the high jump.[7] At the national indoor championships, Brown shared first place with another Yale teammate, Franklin Pierce, at 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m).[1][8] He capped his indoor season on March 15, jumping 14 ft 1+34 in (4.31 m) at Madison Square Garden for a new indoor world record.[9][10]

At the 1933 outdoor IC4A meet Brown pulled a tendon high jumping, but still shared first place with four others in the pole vault, including Olympic champion Bill Miller and outdoor world record holder Bill Graber.[11][12] Brown won his first national outdoor title that summer, tying with Matt Gordy at 14 ft (4.26 m).[13] He broke his own indoor world record on February 17, 1934, with a jump of 14 ft 4 in (4.37 m), again at Madison Square Garden.[9][14][15] That summer he repeated as both IC4A champion[12] and national outdoor champion.[13]

Brown became captain of the Yale track team in 1935, and won both the pole vault and the high jump at that winter's indoor IC4A meet.[16] In his final collegiate competition on June 1, 1935, at the outdoor IC4A Championships – the same meet where his uncle had broken the world record exactly twenty-three years earlier – Brown cleared a bar set at 14 ft 5+18 in (4.39 m), breaking Graber's world record of 14 ft 4+38 in (4.37 m).[17][18][19][20][21] (Earlier that spring Graber had jumped 14 ft 5+58 in (4.41 m), but that jump was void for record purposes since the runway had been elevated by two inches (5 cm).[18][20][22]) Later that summer, Brown broke the British all-comers record on two occasions and won the AAA Championships.[23][24] A panel of experts viewed him as likely to make the American team for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin,[25] but he retired from the sport without attempting to qualify.[4][26]

Later life and political career

In 1946, Brown and his family took what was intended to be a six-week winter holiday in Arizona.[27] They ended up staying there permanently, buying the 40,000-acre Santa Rita Ranch south of Tucson in Pima County;[27][28] Brown thus left behind a job with Booz Allen Hamilton to become a rancher.[27]

Brown soon became involved in Republican politics in Pima County and Arizona,[27][29] serving in the Arizona State Legislature from 1955 to 1959.[30] When Richard Kleindienst resigned as chairman of the Arizona Republican Party due to business pressures in early 1963, Brown was endorsed to be his successor by top Republican leaders, including Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.[31][32][33] Although challenged by Evan Mecham, who had been the Republican candidate in the previous year's Senate elections, the more moderate Brown was selected for the chairmanship.[32][33] He was Arizona party chairman when Goldwater became the state's first candidate for the presidency.[34] He was also a delegate at the 1964 Republican National Convention,[35] and in September 1964 he was appointed to the executive branch of the Republican National Committee.[29][36] He resigned the chairmanship in the spring of 1965 due to the demands of his business life, as well as the inconvenience of commuting from the Tucson area to the state capital of Phoenix.[37]

In 1972, Brown was named the Southern Arizona chairman of the Committee to Re-elect the President.[36][38]

Business activities

In addition to his career as a cattle rancher, Brown was chairman of the board and the leading stockholder of American Atomics Corporation,[30] a Tucson-based company that used radioactive tritium to make luminescent tubes for clocks, watches and signs.[30][39][40] Although the company's then-CEO Peter J. Biehl stated in 1977 that the radioactivity presented no danger,[39] American Atomics was controversially[41][42] shut down in the summer of 1979 by Governor Bruce Babbitt after high levels of radioactive tritium were measured in Tucson near its factory.[30][41][42] Critics also claimed the firm had been more concerned with profits than public safety.[30]

Brown also served as director of the Southern Arizona Bank and Trust Company.[36][43][44]

Personal life

Brown married Katherine McLennan, daughter of Marsh & McLennan co-founder Donald R. McLennan, at Lake Forest, Illinois on July 3, 1937.[45][46] The couple had two sons (Keith Jr. and Steve) and two daughters (Julia and Katherine),[47] with the first three children born in Illinois and the youngest, Steve, after the family's relocation to Arizona.[27] They lived on their Santa Rita Ranch until 1967, when they moved to Tucson; they bought another, smaller ranch there after selling the Santa Rita Ranch in 1971.[27] After Katherine's death in 1982, Brown married Mary Lou Stevens. They moved to Del Mar, California, where he died of emphysema in July 1991.[27][47]


  1. ^ a b c d e Currie, George (March 9, 1933). "Eli Vaulters Have Been Consistent Winners Since Gilbert Scored" (PDF). Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Currie, George (May 13, 1931). "Keith Brown Adds Name to Long List of Schoolboy Phenoms" (PDF). Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Andover Vaulter Breaks Schoolboy Record in Stadium As Exeter Leads Rivals in Saturday's Interscholastic Meet". The Harvard Crimson. May 11, 1931. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Gould, Alan (July 5, 1936). "Yale Produces Star Pole Vaulters". Big Spring Daily Herald. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  5. ^ "Notable alumni". Phillips Academy. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  6. ^ Hymans, Richard. "The History of the United States Olympic Trials – Track & Field". Track & Field News. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 18, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Kramer, Boris B. (March 10, 1933). "Sport Slants" (PDF). The Taft Papyrus. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  8. ^ "USA Indoor Track & Field Champions". USA Track & Field. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Butler, Mark (2010). "Doha 2010 Statistics Handbook" (PDF). IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 26, 2010. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  10. ^ "World Marks Shattered in Indoor Finale". Berkeley Daily Gazette. March 16, 1933. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  11. ^ Kramer, Boris B. (June 2, 1933). "Sport Slants" (PDF). The Taft Papyrus. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Squire, Jesse. "IC4A Championships (1876–1942)". Athletics Weekly. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Mallon, Bill; Buchanan, Ian; Track & Field News. "A History of the Results of the National Track & Field Championships of the USA From 1876 Through 2011". Track & Field News. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  14. ^ "Two Records Broken at Garden Races". The Milwaukee Journal. February 18, 1934. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  15. ^ "Bill Bonthron Wins Baxter Mile With Thrilling Sprint". The Tuscaloosa News. February 18, 1934. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  16. ^ "Three Champs Stand Out on Track". The Spartanburg Herald. March 4, 1935. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  17. ^ Butler, Mark. "IAAF Statistics Handbook Berlin 2009" (PDF). IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 29, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Brown, Graber to Settle Pole Vault Feud June 15". Reading Eagle. June 3, 1935. Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  19. ^ Gould, Alan (June 2, 1935). "Keith Brown Vaults to Record Altitude at Cambridge Field" (PDF). Twin Falls Daily News. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  20. ^ a b Donahue, Jimmy (December 20, 1935). "Owens Feat in Big Ten Meet Best in History". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  21. ^ "Old Penn Wins the Intercollegiates". The Pittsburgh Press. June 2, 1912. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  22. ^ "Vaulters Plan to Settle Feud". Spokane Daily Chronicle. June 3, 1935. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  23. ^ "Americans Win Over Oxford-Cambridge". Reading Eagle. July 21, 1937. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  24. ^ "British Athletics Championships 1919–1939". Athletics Weekly. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  25. ^ "West Coast Leads in Olympic Hopes". Lawrence Journal-World. March 25, 1936. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  26. ^ Gould, Alan (July 2, 1936). "Star-Spangled Field Brigade Looks Strong". Big Spring Daily Herald. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Peachin, Mary Levy (November 2, 2012). "Escape from Chicago left Tucson legacy for Brown family". Inside Tucson Business. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  28. ^ "40,000-Acre Ranch Deal Is Arranged". Tucson Daily Citizen. April 12, 1946. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  29. ^ a b "GOP Appoints Brown to Executive Branch". Tucson Daily Citizen. September 15, 1964. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  30. ^ a b c d e Schlangen, Les (September 30, 1979). "Tritium firm accused of being profit-hungry". The Prescott Courier. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  31. ^ Wynn, Bernie (March 21, 1963). "Mecham Opposes Brown for Chair". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  32. ^ a b Tully, Andrew (April 19, 1963). "National Whirligig". The Reading Eagle. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  33. ^ a b Pearson, Drew (April 27, 1963). "Washington Merry Go Round". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  34. ^ Brown, Keith (October 17, 1964). "The Republican Case". Scottsdale Progress. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  35. ^ Hill, Gladwin (July 14, 1964). "Who are the Delegates?". Nashua Telegraph. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  36. ^ a b c "Keith Brown Committee Chief for Republicans". Tucson Daily Citizen. April 21, 1972. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  37. ^ "Brown to Resign as Chairman of Arizona GOP". Prescott Evening Courier. April 23, 1965. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  38. ^ Bushnell, Asa (November 8, 1972). "Democrats' next goal here is City Hall in '73". Tucson Daily Citizen. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  39. ^ a b Darby, Edwin (December 24, 1977). "Tiny Tucson Firm Ready to Win Battle of Giants?". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  40. ^ "Bulletin 79–22: Possible Leakage of Tubes of Tritium Gas Used in Timepieces for Luminosity". United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. September 5, 1979. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  41. ^ a b Westerlund, John S. (January 1, 2004). Arizona's War Town: Flagstaff, Navajo Ordnance Depot, and World War II. ISBN 978-0-8165-2415-0.
  42. ^ a b "Arizona's Governor Babbitt likes his 'bully pulpit'". The Christian Science Monitor. February 12, 1980. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  43. ^ "Keith Spalding Brown". Tucson Daily Citizen. May 26, 1970. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  44. ^ Anderson, Jack (November 6, 1971). "Republican Bankers". Nashua Telegraph. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  45. ^ "Society Folk Taking Trips; Guests Here". The Milwaukee Journal. June 28, 1937. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  46. ^ "Family Poet Toasts Pair at Wedding". The Milwaukee Journal. July 4, 1937. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  47. ^ a b "Keith Brown, Pole Vaulter, 76". The New York Times. July 18, 1991. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
Preceded by
United States Bill Graber
Men's Pole Vault Outdoor World Record Holder
June 1, 1935 – July 4, 1936
Succeeded by
United States George Varoff
Preceded by
United States Sabin Carr
Men's Pole Vault Indoor World Record Holder
March 15, 1933 – February 17, 1937
Succeeded by
United States George Varoff