COLUMN: Remembering longtime media personality Hank “Legend” Brown

The word “legend” is often used to describe people who have had a long term impact on an industry. With “Hank” Brown, this word is the most appropriate. Brown, who died at 91 in Vermont on Monday, May 9, from complications from Alzheimer’s disease, was truly a legendary broadcaster in central New York and beyond.

I officially met Brown in 2003 after listening to him on my morning commute to work for years before. I joined the board of the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame, where he had already served for the better part of a decade. When he was nominated for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2004, it was an honor to vote for him, and over time I became more and more impressed with the reputation Brown earned in and around our region.

As I became friends, I learned that Brown had started his illustrious career at Little Falls after a college career at Fordham. From 1957 until his retirement in 2013, Brown called Little Falls home, but the world was really his office. From the studios of radio stations such as WLFH at WRUN, WIBX, WUTQ and WADR, to the television studio of WKTV where he hosted the number one local program on television in the 1960s “Twist-A-Rama”, the voice Brown’s gorgeous and friendly demeanor came on our airwaves. He was an instant treasure.

In addition to his morning radio show, where he played the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and 1940s Big Band music, Brown also hosted local sports competitions. He announced at the U.S. Olympics, covered numerous boxing matches at all levels, was a fixture at the annual National Baseball Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown, and appeared on ABC’s Wide World of Sports alongside the iconic Howard Cosel. He even covered an old World Wrestling Federation match or two in his career! The man has moved on and become a truly recognizable face and voice in the sports world.

The Philadelphia native received many accolades throughout his life for his renowned work in the broadcasting industry. Including inductions into the aforementioned Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame, the SUNY Poly Wildcat Hall of Fame and the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In 2009, the Oneida County Historical Society (now Oneida County History Center) selected Brown as a “living legend” over Richard Couper. Brown has earned and deserved each of these accolades.

What I will remember most about Brown is his immense kindness and compassion for the less privileged in our society. Every year, he used his radio platform to raise funds to organize a Christmas party for those less fortunate and in need. The children he welcomed received sweets, gifts and a visit from Santa Claus. It was so emblematic of the incredible man he was. His heart was as big as his personality, yet he was still modest and airless.

Earlier this year we lost another legendary voice in Lloyd Walsh, who died days before his 100th birthday. Both Brown and Walsh have left profound impacts on our local broadcast world that will be hard to replicate.

Editor’s Note: Lou Parrotta is a history teacher at Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica. In 2007, former Mayor of the City of Utica, Timothy J. Julian, appointed Lou the Official Historian of the City of Utica, and he serves as President of the Oneida County Historians Association. Among his community involvements, he is a longtime member and past chairman of the Oneida County Historic Center Board of Directors. Lou has served on the board of directors of the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame for the past 20 years, including 10 years as president, and is a member of the board of directors of the Mohawk Valley Baseball Hall of Fame.

Daniel C. Williams