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Louis Brownlow
American mayor

Louis Brownlow

Louis Brownlow
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American mayor
Was Political scientist Politician
From United States of America
Field Politics
Gender male
Birth 29 August 1879, Buffalo, USA
Death 27 September 1963, Washington, D.C., USA (aged 84 years)
Star sign Virgo
Politics Democratic Party
The details (from wikipedia)


Louis Brownlow (August 29, 1879 – September 27, 1963) was an American author, political scientist, and consultant in the area of public administration. As chairman of the Committee on Administrative Management (better known as the Brownlow Committee) in 1937, he co-authored a report which led to passage of the Reorganization Act of 1939 and the creation of the Executive Office of the President. While chairing the Committee on Administrative Management, Brownlow called several of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's advisors men with "a passion for anonymity"—which later became a popular phrase.

Early life and career

Louis Brownlow was born in Buffalo, Missouri, in August 1879. His parents were Robert Sims and Ruth Amis Brownlow. His father had been a soldier in the Confederate States Army, serving in the Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas area, and had been wounded in the hip by a minié ball. His parents, each of whom had taught school at some time, moved from Giles County, Tennessee, to Missouri some time between 1877 and 1879 after Robert Brownlow was appointed postmaster for the town of Buffalo. Louis was frequently ill as a child, and educated at home. He was unable to attend college due to his family's poverty, but read books extensively.

In 1900, Brownlow was hired by the Nashville Banner, and over the next several years wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville Times, and several other newspapers in Tennessee as well. He also worked for the Haskin Syndicate as a political writer and later as a correspondent in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East from 1906 to 1915. He ghost-wrote Haskin's 1911 book The American Government, which was an influential treatise on Progressive ideas about public administration.

He married the former Elizabeth Sims (daughter of Congressman Thetus W. Sims) in December 1909. The couple had no children. Brownlow was a member of the Democratic Party and a Methodist, and belonged to the Cosmos Club and National Press Club.

Political and academic career

Brownlow came to Washington, D.C., as a reporter for two Tennessee newspapers, and made the acquaintance of President Theodore Roosevelt. He caught the attention of President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 after being one of the few newspaper reporters to correctly predict that the German Empire would go to war with Serbia over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (which caused the start of World War I). Expressing a desire to put into practice many of the administrative practices he had reported on from Europe, Brownlow sought and won from President Wilson appointment in 1915 as a commissioner of the District of Columbia, serving until 1920. From 1917 to 1920, he was president of the commissioners, and a vocal proponent of home rule. During this period, the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia unionized, and Brownlow supported its unionization (although not its affiliation with the American Federation of Labor). He helped guide the city through the 1918 flu pandemic, closing schools and businesses and banning all public gatherings. He also served on the District of Columbia Public Utilities Commission and the District Zoning Commission from 1917 to 1919. He was City Manager of Petersburg, Virginia, from 1920 to 1923; City Manager of Knoxville, Tennessee, from 1924 to 1926; and City Manager of Radburn, New Jersey, from 1927 to 1931. He briefly worked for the United States Daily newspaper in 1927. He was a consultant to the City Housing Corporation in New York City from 1928 to 1931, and was elected a director of the corporation in 1931.

Brownlow began teaching political science at the University of Chicago in 1931, and later that year was appointed director of the Public Administration Clearing House (which he had helped organize in 1930) at the university. He remained the Clearing House's director until 1945. Brownlow became chairman of the Committee for Public Administration of the Social Science Research Council in 1933, where he worked to bridge the gap between academics and practitioners. He was also chairman of the National Institute of Public Affairs from 1934 to 1949.

Brownlow Committee

On March 22, 1936, Roosevelt established the Committee on Administrative Management (commonly known as the Brownlow Committee) and charged it with developing proposals for reorganizing the executive branch. The three-person committee consisted of Louis Brownlow, Charles Merriam, and Luther Gulick.

On January 10, 1937, the Committee released its report. Famously declaring "The President needs help," the Committee's report advocated a strong chief executive, including among its 37 recommendations significant expansion of the presidential staff, integration of managerial agencies into a single presidential office, expansion of the merit system, integration of all independent agencies into existing Cabinet departments, and modernization of federal accounting and financial practices.

While he was a member of the Committee on Administrative Management, Brownlow was named an official delegate to the Sixth International Congress of Administrative Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. Although he left government service after the termination of the Committee, Brownlow continued to be an advisor to presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He left that position in 1939.

Brownlow received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from American University in 1938. He suffered a heart attack in December of that year.

Post-Brownlow Committee

Brownlow helped co-found the American Society for Public Administration in 1940, serving in various executive and advisory capacities to it until 1945. Brownlow was also director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Foundation in 1947, and director of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation from 1948 to 1953. He retired from the University of Chicago in 1949, and served as a visiting professor at the University of Washington in 1957 and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse in 1958 and 1959.


Louis Brownlow died in Arlington, Virginia, in September 1963 after delivering a speech at the Army Navy Country Club. The cause of death was a heart attack. A memorial service was held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

Honors named for Brownlow

Since 1968, the National Academy of Public Administration has recognized outstanding contributions to the literature of public administration through presentation of the Louis Brownlow Book Award. The award is given to a book published in the previous two years which has made an exceptional contribution to the study of governmental institutions or public administration problems.

The American Society for Public Administration also bestows its Louis Brownlow Award on the best article written by a public administrator to appear in the journal Public Administration Review in the past year.


  • The President and the Presidency. Chicago: Public Administration Service, 1949.
  • A Passion for Politics: The Autobiography of Louis Brownlow: First Half. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955.
  • A Passion for Anonymity: The Autobiography of Louis Brownlow: Second Half. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.
  • The Anatomy of the Anecdote. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 27 Jun 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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