- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

Robert S. Browne, 79, economist, professor

Robert Span Browne, an economist, professor and foreign-aid adviser, died Aug. 5 of heart failure in Rockland County, N.Y. He was 79.

Mr. Browne, who lived in Teaneck, N.J., was born in Chicago. In 1944, he earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in economics from the University of Illinois. He received a master’s in finance from the University of Chicago in 1947, becoming one of the first blacks in U.S. history to earn an MBA degree. He continued his studies at the London School of Economics and received a doctoral degree from the City University of New York.

Through his writings, speeches and activism, Mr. Browne helped shape the discourse on black America in the 1960s and 1970s and on U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He focused on economics and other topics as they related to blacks, including human development, communications, foreign policy, rural development and political empowerment.

Mr. Browne held positions with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Cambodia from 1955 to 1958 and in Vietnam from 1958 to 1961. He met his future wife, Huoi Nguyen, while in Cambodia.

Upon his return to the United States, he met with peace organizations, political groups, labor unions and churches, and he published letters and articles to highlight what he thought was a dangerous course in Southeast Asia.

By the late 1960s, Mr. Browne had shifted his focus to the economic development of blacks, founding three national black self-help organizations: the Black Economic Research Center in 1969; the Emergency Land Fund in 1971; and the Twenty-First Century Foundation, also in 1971.

In 1980, the Treasury Department appointed him as the first U.S. executive director of the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a position he held until 1982. From 1982 to 1985, he served as senior research fellow of African studies at Howard University. From 1986 to 1991, he was staff director of the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs subcommittee on international development institutions.

After semi-retirement in 1993, he became an economic consultant for some District-based organizations, several dealing with Africa.

Mr. Browne served as Jesse Jackson’s adviser on economic policy during his 1984 campaign for president and made a presentation on U.S.-African policy at the Clinton-Gore economic summit in Little Rock, Ark., shortly after the 1992 presidential election.

He is survived by his wife; four children, Hoa, Mai, Alexi and Marshall; a sister, Wendelle Browne of Chicago; and a grandson.

A memorial service will be held next month. The family requests donations be made to the Robert S. Browne Family Fund at the Twenty-First Century Foundation, 271 W. 125th St., Suite 303, New York, NY 10027.

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