Charles Ignatius Brown seems to be a man who greatly valued his privacy. Although he, along with Leonard Francis Morse and Abram Langston Taylor, was one of the three men who founded the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity at Howard University in 1914, little is known about his life before or after his time at Howard University.
While there is no information about birthdate or parent's names available from the registrar's office at Howard University, they do shed some light on Brown's movements. In 1907, he entered Howard Academy, continuing there until his graduation and admission into Howard University in 1910, where he graduated in 1914. The registrar's office had the following permanent addresses on file: 1910, 1813 Titan Street, Philadelphia, PA; 1914, 4820 Broad Street, Pittsburgh, PA.
According to the 1914 Howard University Yearbook, Charles I. Brown served as Class Chaplain, 1913; Chaplain Classical Club, 1912-1913; President Classical Club, 1914; Vice-President Phi Beta Sigma, 1914.
Following his graduation from Howard University, he traveled to Topeka, KS, to become a teacher. In searching the records of the schools in Topeka, no Charles Ignatius Brown was found. However, the October 9, 1914 issue of the Topeka Plaindealer contains the "Topeka Industrial & Educational Institute Notes" article which laments the departure of Miss Bertha Pitts, instructor of Mathematics and Latin, and states that "Her successor is Mr. Charles Brown of Howard University, Washington, D.C."
In 1917, Charles I. Brown founded the Delta Chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity at Kansas State Agricultural College, now Kansas State University. In a phone interview with Pat Patton, Sheridan Settler, member of Delta Chapter attending K-State from 1922-1926, recalled meeting Charles I. Brown, describing him as that "dark little fella from Topeka."
The "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918" database contains the cards for approximately 24 million men living in the US in 1917 and 1918. Ninety-eight percent of all men between the ages of 18 and 45, born between 11 Sep 1872 and 12 Sep 1900, filled out registration cards, regardless of US citizenship status. Of all these men, there is only one Charles Ignatius Brown listed. He was living in Topeka, KS, on 12 Sep 1918. He gives his date of birth as 27 Aug 1884. He was working as a porter at the Kansas Farmer (magazine). His nearest relative was Mrs. Lillian Viola Smith living in Issue, Charles county, MD.
The last correspondence that the fraternity received from him was a letter to Abram Langston Taylor in 1924, in which he indicated that he was teaching in Kansas. (The letter no longer exists, having been destroyed in a flood.)
The "US World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942" database indexes the draft cards from the fourth registration, often referred to as the "old man's registration" conducted on 27 Apr 1942, registering men born between 28 Apr 1877 and 16 Feb 1897 who were not already in the military. The database is incomplete. However there is one Charles I Brown, born 27 Aug 1885 in Pittsburgh, PA, listed. He was living at 624 Wood Street, Philadelphia, PA, and worked at J. B. Liebman & Co. Albert S. Brown, of the same address, is listed as his contact person.
While there is a difference in the birth year, it is not unheard of for the birth year to fluctuate one or two years. It is less common for the specific date to fluctuate.
Tracking Charles Brown, born 1884 or 1885, through the census records has not led to a positive match. Nor has it been possible to track Mrs. Lillian Viola Smith of Issue, MD, or Albert S. Brown of Philadelphia, PA, through the census records.
Charles Brown, born 27 Aug 1885, died 21 Dec 1981 in Philadelphia, PA. The social security death index and the death certificate have a conflict in the social security number, having one digit different. The death certificate for Charles Brown, born 27 Aug 1885, was filled out based on the patient's medical records and has either "unknown" or "not disclosed" for the majority of the personal identifying information. (Death certificate provided by Linden Houston)The death index social security number leads back to an application filed on 30 Nov 1938 by Charles Ignatius Brown, born 27 Aug 1890 in Pittsburgh, PA, the son of Charles Henry and Florence (Booth) Brown.
Provided by Linden Houston
Thus far, there has been no match in the census records for a Charles Brown (born 1890 in Pennsylvania) with parents, Charles and Florence.
Another commonly held belief about Charles Ignatius Brown is that he was born in 1890 in Kansas, the son of Rev. John Brown and his wife Maggie.
The 1905 Kansas census does list a Charles Brown, age 15, living in Topeka with J M Brown, 34 year old minister born in KY, Maggie, age 32, and 5 year old Merrill. The state census does not list the relationship between the individuals. Based on other census one can presume that Maggie and J M were married and Merrill was their son. So, while Charles could be John's son from a previous marriage, he is definitely not Maggie's son. It is also possible that he was simply living with the family for some unknown reason.
The 1900 census finds John Brown, preacher from KY, and his bride of one year Maggie living in Topeka, with their son Merrill, born Sep 1899. There is no mention of Charles who would have been 10 years old. If Charles was John's son, he might have been living with relatives at this time, but it would be nearly impossible to identify him in the census records. By 1910, when Charles would have been at the Howard Academy, John M. Brown, AME Minister and his second wife, Maggie, were living in Lawrence with their sons Merrill, age 10, and Olin, age 2.
Working backward to the 1895 Kansas census, searching for a John Brown born in Kentucky around 1870, only one appears to match closely. In Vermillion, Marshall county, John Brown, age 25, with Bell, age 22, Charles, age 5, and Esther, age 1. However, this is mere supposition.