Bill Brown Obituary


William Deward “Bill” Brown was born on December 17, 1926, and passed away on April 6, 2023. He was preceded in death by his wife of 70 years, Doris Evelyn Holmes Brown, his parents, Nida Zelma Brazelton Brown and Clarence Monroe Brown, and his brother Clarence Oliver Brown. He is survived by his sister, Earlene Brown Davis; children, Richard Holmes Brown (Karen), Karen Elizabeth Brown, Beverly Suzanne Brown Durborow (Robert), and Donna Jeanne Brown Boatwright (Rodney); grandchildren, Rebecca Lynn Brown Golden (Alex), Rachel Ann Brown Hill (Jarrod), Stephen Richard Brown (Lauren), David Holmes Brown (Rebecca), Jeremiah Brown Luther, Jonathan Bryant Luther (Ada), Allyson Jane Durborow Thomas (Alex), Michael William Durborow (Rachel), Megan Joy Boatwright Cowley (Jacob), Bethany Lenn Boatwright Tabailloux (Timothee), and Benjamin Wade Boatwright (Aimie); and 13 great-grandchildren.
Bill was born in Huntsville, Alabama. He was raised in Huntsville’s Merrimack Mill Village and graduated from Joe Bradley School in 1945. He enlisted in the US Maritime Service during World War II and served on a number of ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific. He worked his way through college in the Co-Op program and graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University) in 1951 with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering, becoming the first member of his family to earn a university degree.
Following graduation, Bill worked as a chemical engineer from 1951 to 1960 at Ordnance Missile Laboratories, Northrop Aircraft, Thiokol, and Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA). He was involved with ABMA’s transfer to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to create Marshall Space Flight Center on Redstone Arsenal, AL in 1960. He was Deputy Manager and then Manager of the Saturn Engine Program Office where he was part of Dr. Wernher von Braun’s team. Bill was responsible for all the booster engines that took Apollo astronauts to the moon. After Apollo, he was the first Manager of the Space Shuttle Main Engine Program Office. Following retirement from NASA in 1976, Bill continued working in technical program management with Wyle Laboratories, ARO Incorporated, DB Associates, an independent consulting engineer, and an entrepreneur. Later, he worked in real estate and housing restoration.
Bill married his childhood friend and fellow Auburn graduate, Doris Holmes, in 1951. They raised four children, Richard, Karen, Beverly, and Donna, who all graduated from Grissom High School and went on to earn graduate degrees from a variety of universities. He taught the entire family to be staunch Auburn Tiger supporters and thoroughly enjoyed college football.
Bill loved the Tennessee River where he swam, fished, and taught his children and grandchildren to waterski. He continued to waterski until he was 83. An avid scuba diver, he was particularly fond of drift dives at Cozumel. Bill learned to fly in a Piper Cub. He was a private pilot and often flew himself on business trips. Friends and family enjoyed delicious honey from Bill’s beehives.
Bill and Doris were faithful members of Whitesburg Baptist Church from 1960 to 1970 and then Willowbrook Baptist Church from 1970 until their passing. Bill served as deacon, chairman of deacons, and a trustee at Willowbrook Baptist Church.
Bill was involved in civic life through the Kiwanis where he served a term as president. He also supported the Downtown Rescue Mission and similar organizations. His home restoration business became a platform to employ those struggling with life’s circumstances.
Bill always had a positive outlook on life, loved and supported his family, loved people, and lived his Christian faith. These are the gifts that he left us. His was a life well lived.
Visitation will be at Willowbrook Baptist Church from 10 to 11 a.m. on Monday, April 10, 2023, with the funeral service immediately following. Burial will be in Huntsville Memory Gardens.

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Published by Laughlin Service Funeral Home & Crematory – Huntsville on Apr. 8, 2023.


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10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Willowbrook Baptist Church
7625 Bailey Cove Rd., Huntsville, AL
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Willowbrook Baptist Church
7625 Bailey Cove Rd., Huntsville, AL
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