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About John Nicholas Brown II
John Nicholas Brown II (February 21, 1900 - October 10, 1979) was the United States Assistant Secretary of the Navy (AIR) from 1946 to 1949. He was a member of the Brown family that had been active in American life since before the American Revolution and who were the major early benefactors of Brown University.
He was born in New York City on February 21, 1900 to John Nicholas Brown I who died the same year he was born.
Brown grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, where he attended St. George's School. Brown served briefly in the United States Navy during World War I, and then attended Harvard University, from which he received a bachelor's degree in 1922 and a master's degree in 1928.
Brown inherited a large fortune. (In 1957, Fortune magazine reported that his net worth was between $75 million and $100 million.) In the wake of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Brown took control of his family's real estate and textiles businesses, beginning new enterprises and streamlining others. In 1930, he met and married Anne Seddon Kinssolving, a society reporter working for the Baltimore News.
One of Brown's first acts of philanthropy was to finance the construction of the large and ornate chapel at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island. It is said he did this so that the students would no longer have to walk two miles to church on Sundays.
During World War II Brown worked for the United States Army and after the war, he was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the Army and he traveled to Europe to supervise the return of art treasures stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners. Early in 1946, President of the United States Harry S. Truman nominated Brown as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (AIR) and Brown held this office from January 12, 1946 until March 8, 1949.
Brown settled in Providence, Rhode Island as a senior fellow of Brown University. He served the university in a number of capacities for 49 years, including a stint as chairman of the university's building and planning committee, in which capacity he oversaw the building of a number of Brown University's buildings. He was also a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1975 was awarded the Smithsonian's Joseph Henry Medal for his cultural leadership.
Brown belonged to many organizations including the Pilgrims Society, the Society of the Cincinnati, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, the Society of Colonial Wars, the Newport Reading Room and the highly exclusive Clambake Club.
Brown was an avid yachtsman and served as commodore of the New York Yacht Club, the Ida Lewis Yacht Club and the Newport Yacht Club.
Brown's Newport mansion Harbor Court was inherited by his wife and, after her death, it was sold to the New York Yacht Club to serve as its Newport station.
Brown was an Officer of the French Legion of Honor.
Brown and his wife had three children: John Carter Brown III, who became director of the National Gallery of Art; Nicholas Brown, who became a captain in the United States Navy; and Angela Brown Fischer.
On October 10, 1979, while celebrating his son John Carter Brown III's 45th birthday, John Nicholas Brown had a heart attack while on his yacht in Annapolis, Maryland and died.
Brown was laid to rest at the North Burial Ground in Providence at the Brown family plot with several of his ancestors.