Before Charlie Sifford, before Pete Brown and before Lee Elder there was a PGA member of African descent named Dewey Brown.
Dewey Brown was born in North Carolina in 1898 and grew up in New Jersey. He was introduced to golf as a caddy at the Madison Golf Club. Before long he was working on the golf course mowing fairways behind a horse drawn mower for $1 a day.
By the age of 18 he was an accomplished golfer and had become interested in club making. He began working under the golf professional at the Morris County Country Club as a club maker. He must have learned quickly as he made a set of clubs for Chick Evans that Evans used to win the 1916 U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club. Brown later made a set of clubs for United States President Warren G. Harding.
In 1918 Shawnee Inn & Country Club professional Willie Norton hired Brown as his assistant. At Shawnee Brown gave many golf lessons. During the winter months he would return to New Jersey and work for Baltusrol Golf Club professional George Low teaching indoors and making golf clubs.
At one point Brown left Shawnee to buy a farm but he returned in 1925 and stayed on for another 12 years. In 1928 he became a member of the PGA of America but in 1934 the PGA inserted a clause in its by-laws stating that the members had to be Caucasians. His membership in the PGA was terminated.
He left Shawnee in 1937 to manage clubs in New Jersey and New York, but in 1946 he returned to Shawnee one more time. Fred Waring, the famous bandleader, had bought Shawnee and hired Brown to be his hotel manager. He did not stay long as a new opportunity beckoned. He bought the Cedar River House & Golf Club in Indian Lake, New York. By then he was certainly qualified to own an inn and golf club. Brown managed the hotel and was the golf professional as well. Eleven years after buying the Cedar River House he joined the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
When the PGA eliminated the “Caucasian Only” clause from its by-laws in 1962 Brown applied for reinstatement. A couple of years later he was a “Class A” PGA member again.
When Dewey Brown retired in 1972 one of his son’s took over the business. Brown died in 1973 and is buried in Indian Lake Cemetery which is across the road from his Cedar River Golf Club. Some golf historians have referred to him as one of America’s golf pioneers.