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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » William A. Brower Jr. ’71

William A. Brower, Jr., a Toledo native who became a force on the Washington DC jazz scene as a writer, producer, sound technician, and advocate, died April 12, 2021, in Georgetown University Hospital. He was 72.

He had a stroke about two years ago and afterward lived at Forest Hills of DC senior community, said his daughter Tina Brower-Thomas.

In a Black History Month feature, the DC Jazz festival on Feb. 19 presented an online salute to Mr. Brower, commending him for “his dedication to jazz artists and organizations in our community.”

Mr. Brower, called Billy by family and Toledo friends, moved to Washington in 1971 after graduating from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He returned frequently for family visits and then for tributes in honor of his trailblazing parents — Louise Brower, a longtime Toledo Public Schools educator who upon becoming Scott High School principal in 1975 was the first woman to lead a large metropolitan high school in Ohio, and William A. Brower, an award-winning Blade editor and columnist who was the newspaper’s first Black reporter when he was hired in 1946.

In 2014, when Scott High’s theater was named for his mother, Mr. Brower said his parents were part of the “Jackie Robinson generation,” referring to the first Black player in Major League Baseball. His mother died in 2003.

After his father’s 2004 death, Mr. Brower said: “My dad, my mom, they were part of that historical process … part of the generation that knew what they were doing was historically important and they were proud to do it.”

Willard Jenkins, a journalist, broadcaster, and artistic director of the DC Jazz Festival, said: “Bill would talk about his father’s writing having been very influential on him.”

Born May 9, 1948, Mr. Brower grew up in the Westmoreland neighborhood of central Toledo and attended Robinson School. His parents ensured he was exposed to music and art — and he kept a record collection from junior high onward, he told Mr. Jenkins in a 2014 interview.

He was a 1966 graduate of Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio. After graduating Antioch, he became a Washington community organizer while also writing about jazz for Downbeat magazine and other publications. He was an occasional broadcaster and in time became a fixture on the local jazz scene.

“He was very important. He was a producer and stage manager for a variety of different projects,” Mr. Jenkins said.

An early project was a festival that featured Miles Davis. His work also introduced him to many of the artists he’d listened to since his youth, including Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. He was a producer for the annual jazz day at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation annual meeting. For years, he also was a stage manager of the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

“Bill Brower forged his own path,” said Eric Walker, who also grew up in Westmoreland, “so he kind of followed in his father’s footsteps. It wasn’t the same career, but in that sense he was his father’s son.”

His daughter said: “He was always making connections between music, history, civil rights, and the diaspora. It was about the music being shared, about the experience of the audience, and the power of the music.”

He was a member of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, working at such venues as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to support his family.

“But he still kept his hand in jazz,” his daughter said.

Mr. Jenkins said: “He learned about the music and found a home and forever thereafter had a real thirst for the music.”

He was formerly married to the late Anita Hillman Brower.

Surviving are his son, Karl Brower, and daughter, Tina Brower-Thomas.

Arrangements by McGuire Funeral Service, Washington, are pending.