The Rev. George Thompson ‘Tommy’ Brown, 92, longtime missionary in China and Korea


Tommy Brown was a missionary who became an Atlanta-based administrator of missionaries and wrote books about missionary history.

Along the way, he learned a lot about countries where missionaries go.

“My father came of age in America’s Asian century. His life spanned a continent and an ocean, from Atlanta to China and Korea,” said Mary Bullock of Decatur, former president of Agnes Scott College.

“Dad lived and worked in Korea for many years, but China was his true love,” she said. “He personally experienced China’s warlord era, the Sino-Japanese War, World War II, China’s civil war, the Korean and Cold wars. He deplored the long interruption in Sino-American relations and became a frequent visitor after the renewal of ties in the 1970s.”

Bullock said her father exemplified the words of John Oxenham’s hymn: “In Christ there is no East nor West, in him no South or North, But one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.”

Another former college president echoed Bullock’s words. “Tommy Brown’s life embodied the highest calling of the missionary spirit,” said James Laney, former president of Emory University, also a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and a onetime missionary there.

“He was a missionary-educator of the highest caliber. He founded what is still a thriving seminary in Gwangju, South Korea, and he played a prominent role in developing the Korean Presbyterian Church’s remarkable vitality,” Laney said.

The Rev. George Thompson “Tommy” Brown, 92, died Tuesday of complications from Parkinson’s disease in the health center of Park Springs seniors community in Stone Mountain, where he resided. A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Decatur Presbyterian Church. A.S. Turner and Sons Funeral Home and Crematory is in charge of arrangements.

Born in Lushan, China, the son of Presbyterian missionaries, Brown was educated in international schools in China and Korea before earning a bachelor’s degree at Davidson College in North Carolina. After serving during World War II as a U.S. Army Signal Corps officer, he went on to get a doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond.

In 1973 he came to Atlanta to lead the overseas mission operations of what was then the Southern Presbyterian Church. His successor, the Rev. Cliff Kirkpatrick, now teaching at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, said Brown was an inspiration to him. He was especially impressed with the way Brown smoothed the transition from the hierarchical mission operations of the past to the Presbyterian Church’s current partnerships with Third World-founded and -managed churches.

“The change has led to tremendous growth,” Kirkpatrick said, “with two-thirds of the world’s Presbyterians now living in the global south.”

Brown was the first president of Chinese Connection, a Christian-centered organization that over the past 24 years has provided medical and public health services to those in need in China.

Its executive director, Kathy Call of Pasadena, Calif., said, “I was so grateful that a man of Tommy’s stature and intimate knowledge of China agreed to be our founding president. He led our board with grace and godly wisdom.”

“Perhaps the most notable of our projects during Tommy’s leadership,” Call said, “was the outfitting of two huge mobile surgical clinics for use in the most mountainous areas of China, where doctors had previously struggled to reach the sick. We donated what essentially were two operating rooms on wheels.”

Brown is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mardia Brown; another daughter, Charlotte Hill of Orlando; three sons, George Brown Jr. and Bruce Brown, both of Atlanta, and William Brown of Herndon, Va.; 16 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Manhattan condo strips Trump name from building
Manhattan condo strips Trump name from building

A 46-story condominium in New York City has stripped the Trump name off its entrance, WABC reported. >> Read more trending news  Trump Place, located between 69th and 70th streets on Riverside Boulevard in Manhattan, will now be known as 200 Riverside Boulevard, The New York Times reported. The residents of the 377-unit Upper...
Momentum builds for local control in South Cobb
Momentum builds for local control in South Cobb

More than two dozen residents stopped by the new Mableton Square one recent sunny afternoon to chart a future for the small park they hope will become the seed for a revitalized city center in the South Cobb community. Next door sits the gleaming new Mableton Elementary School, and down the road a bit are the old railroad tracks that slice through...
Illinois dad designs Beetlejuice costume for son with cerebral palsy
Illinois dad designs Beetlejuice costume for son with cerebral palsy

An Illinois boy with cerebral palsy is unable to dress himself, but that won’t prevent him from having fun on Halloween. >> Read more trending news  Anthony Alfano, 9, of Melrose Park, will be dressed in a costume his father makes from scratch, WLS reported. This year, Anthony's costume will showcase the waiting room scene from...
Norfolk Southern CEO talks potential Atlanta move as  Gulch vote nears
Norfolk Southern CEO talks potential Atlanta move as  Gulch vote nears

The CEO of Norfolk Southern told employees Thursday the company is looking to consolidate its headquarters in Atlanta, “but only if many aspects can be resolved,” the Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported.  Though the company had previously discussed a potential consolidation of its operations, the comments by CEO James Squires were...
Executive’s lifestyle under scrutiny as duped investors wait for money
Executive’s lifestyle under scrutiny as duped investors wait for money

Christopher and Connie Brogdon’s asset list suggests the pinnacle of Atlanta prosperity. The couple’s $5 million residence near the top of the St. Regis offers stunning views from one of Buckhead’s most elite addresses. They can pick from a Lexus SUV, a BMW coupe and a Porsche Panamera to navigate the city’s traffic. For trips...
More Stories