Family Connection
Personal Stories
Sales & Marketing

Colon Brown

Colon Brown began his career with the company in 1936 as office manager for the Mobile, AL, Plant which produced wood fiber insulation board and ceiling panels. He worked his way through the Manufacturing organization and became vice chairman in 1964. When company founder Melvin H. Baker retired in 1965, Brown was elected chairman and CEO. He oversaw expansion of the company's research facility in Tonawanda, NY. He established a program in 1969 in which the company bought, rehabilitated and resold homes. While he was chairman, the company added Binswanger Glass, Multicolor (vinyl), DMH, Binning's Building Products (aluminum windows and doors), and Thomas Strahan (wallpaper). Before he retired in February 1976, Brown announced the board's decision to move the company headquarters from Buffalo, NY, to Dallas, TX.

  • Quarterback for the University of Mississippi. Was so small the equipment manager could not find a uniform for him. A player on the team lobbied for the team to give him a chance. He became the star quarterback and excelled in baseball, basketball and track.
  • Started his career with USG in Chicago as a junior office clerk. His father-in-law, Jere Massey was assistant plant manager at USG's Greenville, MS, plant, and Brown's wife Margaret Ann Massey (former Ole Miss cheerleader) persuaded her father to get her husband a job with USG. Asked how he got his job, Brown replied – "I guess I knew how to open the mail."
  • 1936 – Massey approached Melvin H. Baker about his idea to produce wood-fiber insulation. Baker liked the idea, but the company needed $1.5 million to build a plant. Baker raised $2 million at a dinner party with investment firms in New York. The plant was built in Mobile, AL. Massey quit USG and became the plant manager. Colon Brown became his office manager.
  • When Massey died in 1941, Brown became plant manager at age 30. While at Mobile, Brown had a softball field built next to the plant and managed the company's team.
  • Went to Buffalo as a special production manager.
  • He worked as a troubleshooter reporting directly to Melvin H. Baker and became vice president of corporate development.
  • 1960 – Went to Buffalo and directed cement operations while managing development work. When NGC purchased Wesco latex paints, Brown became the West Coast manager
  • 1964 – Became vice chairman of the board.
  • 1965 – Elected chairman of the board and CEO at the retirement of Melvin H. Baker. At that time the company had four Divisions – Gold Bond, Huron Cement, Allentown Cement, and American Olean

Under Brown's leadership, the company's research facility in Tonawanda, NY, doubled in size. At the 1965 annual meeting, Brown said: "When the work is completed, this center will be the most complete single laboratory in the industry for testing both fire and sound control."

In 1969, Brown instituted a program to rehabilitate houses in urban areas. The pilot project was in Columbus, Ohio, where 12 houses were rehabilitated. The next year 130 houses were completed. The company would buy the homes for $2000-$3000 and added $8000 in improvements before selling them. The company helped with financing the sales. USG also was involved in similar rehab projects.

  • In 1972, National Gypsum and Brown, along with executives from other gypsum companies, were convicted of price fixing in violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The Justice Departments action against National Gypsum was dismissed in 1975. Brown, who had pleaded innocent, was totally exonerated of any guilt by the Third U.S. Court of Appeals and by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Brown retired in 1976 – The company had added Binswanger Glass, Multicolor (vinyl), DMH, Binning's Building Products (aluminum windows and doors), and Thomas Strahan (wallpaper).

Douglas Littlewood, Melvin H. Baker's son-in-law, tried to force Brown's retirement at the 1975 board meeting. Lilttlewood was unsuccessful. But, Brown retired on February 12, 1976, with William A. North succeeding him.


1965-1976 – Chairman & CEO

"I have an unqualified faith in the future of the business, and I'm planning for that future."