Larry Brown, a Republican state lawmaker from Kernersville, died of a heart attack this morning in Pinehurst. He was 69.
John Wolfe, town attorney for Kernersville, said he learned of Brown’s death through a phone call from the lawmaker’s sister.
Brown served as mayor of Kernersville before winning a seat in the NC House representing a district in eastern Forsyth County in 2004. He was loved by many for his dedication to Kernersville. In recent years, he drew condemnation for comments considered derogatory towards gays, but treated political opponents and reporters on the campaign trail with civility and respect.
Brown’s legislative district was eliminated during a redistricting process controlled by his own party last year. Brown ran for reelection in the new district, but lost his primary to Forsyth County Commissioner Debra Conrad.
Wolfe said that although Brown had experienced some health challenges in recent years, his death came as a shock. He had seemed to be doing well when the two had dinner about three weeks ago.
Wolfe’s relationship with Brown goes back to 1976, when Brown first joined the Kernersville Board of Alderman. Wolfe said bringing the Triad Industrial Park to the town should be considered one of Brown’s greatest accomplishments.
“That has been good for Kernersville, with FedEx coming in,” Wolfe said. “That’s been a big coup for Kernersville. We worked on it many years.”
The two men traveled to Taiwan together to promote a Sister City’s program, and Wolfe said Brown was committed to international cooperation.
“He saw the need for worldwide, not only peace but relationships among folks,” Wolfe said, “and he realized the importance of having folks get to know each other.”
Wolfe and Brown had a good working relationship as counselor and mayor.
“He and I shared the same political philosophy however we differed on a lot of things,” Wolfe said. “He and I would have our times of fighting with each other so to speak, but we respected each other.”
When Brown believed in something, he was totally committed to it.
“Back in the mid-seventies,” Wolfe recalled, “when Kernersville’s water supply was contaminated by a company called Destructo — it wasn’t the company’s fault, someone broke in and let loose contaminated chemicals — we had a lot of discussions about, what’s Kernersville going to do? Are we going to ask Winston-Salem for emergency assistance? [Brown] said he didn’t believe the water was contaminated. He drank from a big jug from the lake. I have to laugh, but he really believed in what he was doing.”