‘One of our greatest supporters’: Former longtime Rock Hill school board member dies

Rock Hill school district

The Rock Hill community and school district has lost a longtime supporter and friend.

Walter Brown, who served on the Rock Hill school board from 2000-2016, has died, according to the district.

Helena Miller, current Rock Hill board chair and friend of Brown’s, said she saw him Sunday surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“His biggest pride of joy was his family,” Miller said.

Miller said Brown, who was in his 80s, died early Christmas morning.

Brown was a friend to many and loved Rock Hill, where he was raised, Miller said.

“He hated when people called him Mr. Brown; he was Walter,” she said. “He was the sweetest man you have ever met.”

Brown, a Rock Hill High School graduate, loved his community, Miller said.

As a board member, Brown helped pass bond referendums, was involved in the building of new schools and facilities in the district, including the new Cherry Park Elementary School of Language Immersion, and worked with multiple superintendents, Miller said.

“We might not always have agreed on every decision but we could disagree during a conversation in the boardroom and as soon as it was over, it was shake hands and let’s go grab a cup of coffee,” Miller said. “He was a very good friend.”

Brown was always focused on what was best for the Rock Hill community and the children, Miller said.

And he loved the Bearcats.

“Walter has always been one of those folks who is a true Bearcat,” said Ozzie Ahl, principal of Rock Hill High School. “He’ll truly be missed as one of those ultimate supporters of Rock Hill High School and Rock Hill schools.”

Miller said there is a Bearcat-themed room in Brown’s home, filled with school memorabilia.

“We have lost one of our greatest supporters that truly cared from the bottom of his heart,” Miller said.

Jim Vining, former chair of the Rock Hill school board, said he and Brown would often attend Rock Hill High School games together.

Brown also helped with Rock Hill High School’s wrestling program and later saw his grandchildren wrestle, Vining said.

“Walter was involved with our schools and the district for over half a century,” Vining said.

Miller said Brown was her mentor and was always ready with historical information that helped shape school board decisions.

“We have lost a historical knowledge of Rock Hill schools with Walter Brown,” she said. “I’m heartbroken he is no longer with us.”

A service will be held for Brown at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Rock Hill High School auditorium, according to the school district. Dress is “Bearcat casual.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Brown’s name to the Bearcat Backers, P.O. Box 2566, Rock Hill, SC 29732.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.