As I reflect upon the passing ofRobert “Bob” “Bookie” Brown, I am reminded of the numerous ways in which our pathsoverlapped.
I first knew Bob as the older brother of an East Orange High School schoolmate, Rudy. Years later, I knew him as a fellow attorney when we both practiced law in Essex County. Subsequently, when I entered theNew Jersey State Legislature, Bob was Mayor Brown of Orange, one of the towns within the district I represented. A few years later, Bob was my legislative colleague as he too, was elected to the New JerseyGeneral Assembly for the 27th district. We spent many hours sitting next to each other in the chambers of theGeneral Assembly.
Once I left theLegislature to join Governor Florio’s Cabinet, I did not seeBob as much. It was not until I returned to New Jersey from Florida that our paths crossed for one last time. That was almost 6 years ago when I spoke before the East Orange Board of Adjustment regarding a housing project planned for my parents’ block. Bob was the attorney for the Board. He had lost his eyesight and had to be guided to his seat. I had occupied thatsame seat for years as one of the Board’s previous attorneys. I was initially taken aback when I saw Bob. He was much slighter in physical stature than he had been in the years our paths had crossed before. However, I quickly realized that he continued to be the intelligent, quick -witted, colleague I had known forso many decades. Even when his sight had darkened, his personality and his strength were bright. When Iwent up to greet him after the hearing, he recognized my voice and began to joke with me as he always had. The Bob Brown I had known asan attorney, mayor, state legislator, and colleague, continued to have a presence that was extra special.
A I reflect upon the life and passing of Robert “Bob” “Bookie” Brown, I realize how many times ourlives crossed. It was an honor to know him, to serve with him, and to be his colleague in so manyarenas. Bob proved by example, that despite the challenges life presents to us, we still have choice in how we will live and who we will continue to be.
Dr. Stephanie Bush-Baskette is a former Assemblywoman and Commissioner of Community Affairs. She is currently the Director of the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University.