GREENVILLE – Richard “Dick” Brown exemplifies a champion of local history, and on Oct. 5 he received a state award designating him as such. The Ohio Local History Alliance (OLHA), a part of the Ohio History Connection, awarded its first Champion of Local History Award to Dick Brown.
Betsy Hedler with the Ohio History Connection said, “The committee was blown away with Dick’s nomination.” According to Greg Palumbo, director of the Lakewood Historical Society and the presenter and member of the awards committee for OLHA, “It was a wow moment looking at the breadth of work that Dick put into what is an invaluable resource for Greenville High School. The committee was amazed by his personal effort. Everyone’s response on the committee was the same. They all felt he was so obvious for this award.”
As a volunteer, and at his own expense, Brown is tireless in his efforts to record the history of the people of Greenville High School (GHS) and enhance the archives of the Garst Museum.
Brown said, “I believe that awards or achievements deserve to have permanent documentation and memories of the events.” In 2000, he started taking photos of students in various school activities and giving them copies of those photos, gratis, with the pictures providing proof in a historical context. “My goal is to make school memories for students available to them at no cost,” said Brown, and he added, “I get the most satisfaction from giving thousands of printed glossy 8.5”x11” photos to the students that no one else would do.”
Brown has served as president of the Greenville High School Alumni Association for the past 10 years. For eight years, he has compiled 80–90 percent of the semi-annual newsletter for the alumni. Not only does he go to every class reunion, he takes every class’ group picture, records the names, and relates the students to their parents or grandparents who were GHS alumni. This becomes a cherished ancestry.com of sorts.
In 2009, he volunteered to help the struggling yearbook staff at GHS and has provided all the pictures that are used since then. Yes, he does go to all the events that need to be documented. “Another goal,” Brown added, “is to add to the history and disseminate that history.” He created a database of detailed obituary records of Greenville High School students and staff, a published alphabetical listing of all 19,000+ GHS graduates since the first class of 1873, and detailed lists of facts from all 118 yearbooks. He hosts an open house for alumni each May with about 300 tri-fold 3’x 4’ cardboard display units with all aspects of new and old school history.
Now an emeritus board member of the Darke County Historical Society (d.b.a. Garst Museum), Brown served on the board over 20 years. His contributions positively enhance the Research Center at Garst Museum. Brown’s impact is volunteering to photograph, catalog and create databases, and share all the information.
Additionally, he has a large collection of historic postcards, which encompass all of Darke County with thousands of different scenes that he has put on CDs. From time to time, these postcards are reprinted in the local newspaper to the delight of readers and serve to stimulate interest in the bygone days. Brown shares them and has donated historical pictures, prints, and books to the Greenville Public Library, Garst Museum and Darke County Genealogical Society. These organizations are also recipients of books of compilations of data he has researched. “My overall hope is to preserve the small part of our local history, which I have the opportunity to help save,” said Dick.
Brown was present for the awards presentation along with his wife Dianne, daughter Brandy and her husband Josh Hill, and Steve and Eileen Litchfield. He was nominated for this award by Eileen, who immediately thought of him when she learned of this award. In a letter of recommendation that accompanied his nomination, Dr. Alex Warner stated, “He could easily qualify as Mr. Greenville…he has almost singlehandedly overseen the development of the Greenville High School Alumni Association and has been a driving force for the annual Alumni Open House putting in countless hours.” Attorney John Marchal closed his letter of recommendation by saying, “I think I can safely say that no one in our community has spent more time, taken more interest in, has more knowledge of, or provided our community with information concerning its history than Dick Brown.”