George T. Brown, (1820 – 1880)

Brown’s family had moved from Scotland (where he was born) to Alton Illinois in the early 1830’s. As with other aspiring young men of the day, Brown wished to study law. He chose as his teacher the prominent Illinois attorney Lyman Trumbull. For whatever reason the study of law fell away to politics as Brown’s main interest – and in 1846 Brown became the mayor of Alton, Illinois. By 1852 he narrowly missed becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee as Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. Part of Brown’s political success may have been his success in establishing the Alton Daily Morning Courier, which gained a reputation as a mighty newspaper.

Brown’s life changed upon the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Having recently been elected to the Illinois State legislature, he was involved in the voting for Lincoln to be a US Senator in 1854. Eventually Lyman Trumbull was chosen when Lincoln, unable to secure a majority, gave over his votes. In 1856 the anti-slavery sentiment in Illinois called for the establishment of a Republican party. With newly converted Republican George T. Brown presiding as president of the Bloomington Convention, the party was established. Lincoln concluded the convention with his spellbinding “Lost Speech” address with Brown on the platform with him.

Brown’s connection with both Lincoln and Trumbull made for interesting career developments. When the US Senate met in emergency session on July 4, 1861, the Senate Republican caucus awarded the choice patronage assignments to Lyman Trumbull who was the key party member from Illinois. Trumbull orchestrated Brown’s election as the Senate’s first Republican Sergeant of Arms. Brown administered his duties as Sergeant of Arms from 1861-1869.

Brown is mentioned by Sandburg in the events of Lincoln’s second inaugural “Then the sergeant of arms of the Senate, the historic Brown, arose and bowed, with his shining black hat in hand, in dumb-show before the crowd, which thereupon became still, and Abraham Lincoln, rising tall and gaunt among the groups about him, stepped forward to read his inaugural address.”

Brown would be in charge of the Lincoln Funeral at the Capital – and he was designated to be a part of the funeral train’s delegation by attending to Senators’ needs along the journey. Brown might have reflected on events as the funeral train made its way past his old hometown of Alton Illinois. It was 5:00 A.M. on May 3, and there over the railroad tracks an embellished archway “Go To Thy Rest”.

Brown would be involved in the impeachment proceedings of Johnson, and would suffer discredit from the Credit Mobilier scandal. Upon his replacement as Sergeant of Arms, Brown returned to Alton and led a lonely life. He was unmarried, and had little financial security. He would hang out on ocassion at the newspaper office. Brown died in Alton on June 10, 1880.

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