Brown played an integral role in the early revitalization of Natchez and was a key part of the state’s team following Hurricane Katrina.
On April 25th, former Natchez Mayor and Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Larry “Butch” Brown passed away.
Mayor of Natchez, Dan Gibson, said Butch Brown was a giant in all respects, someone who left an impact on Natchez that will be felt for decades to come. Gibson said Brown left a similar impact on the state of Mississippi as well.
“I first got to know him in 1996 when I was a very young Mayor of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, and from that day forward, he always treated me with kindness and respect,” Gibson said. “And when I ran for Mayor of Natchez in 2020, he endorsed me and he was always there when I needed advice, someone to bounce an idea off of, or just simply share a laugh.”
“He had unparalleled charisma, but he also had a love for Natchez that was truly heartfelt and at his very core. There are so many things he accomplished, that it’s hard to list them all,” Gibson stated. “I know at sometimes he ruffled feathers, at sometimes he wore a few people out, because he never took no for an answer.”
The current Mayor of Natchez said Brown once told him that “no” was simply a request for more information.
“I will forever remember him as a dear friend,” Gibson stated.
MDOT Executive Brad White said Brown certainly left his mark on Mississippi politics and the state’s transportation system.
“He, of course, was the director after Katrina and was a big part of the team that worked from the MDOT standpoint of rebuilding south Mississippi after that,” White said. “So, he certainly will leave a mark on the state that he had served in various positions.”
Brown graduated from Natchez High School and then from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in Business Management. He founded the Brown Lumber Company, a highly respected venture around the state, and later established Riverside Central Services, a full-service warehouse operation in the Natchez Port.
“In the 1970’s his interests turned to public service, and he was instrumental in the establishment of a Natchez Campus of Copiah Lincoln Community College and served for many years on its Board of Trustees,” Brown’s obituary states. “Also, during this time, he helped establish the Mississippi – Louisiana Interstate Bridge Compact on which he served as a Commission Member, serving as a catalyst for the eventual funding and construction of a new four lane bridge between the two states.”
Brown was first elected Mayor of Natchez in 1992 and was re-elected in 1996.
“Of special note was his lead in securing federal funding for the Natchez Bluff which was recognized nationally as an significant engineering project and which has been enjoyed for many years by the citizens of Natchez and by visitors for its scenic beauty,” the obituary added. “This coupled with the acquisition of the Natchez Pecan Factory Site and its use as a green space and an event venue has greatly enhanced Natchez as a Tourism Destination nationwide.”
Additionally, Brown helped secure funding for a new Visitor Center and convinced Congress to help fund and locate the Federal Courthouse in Natchez. He also took on the task of building a state-of-the-art Convention Center bringing thousands of new visitors to Natchez.
“Through his efforts the City acquired the Old Post Office on Main Street and repurposed it into a historic museum known as the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American Culture,” the obituary continued. “Butch was also a major player in the construction of the terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway on Liberty Road. A new Council Chamber was acquired and the City updated Water and Sewer services, and moved the Police Department into a new facility.”
Brown served the Mississippi Transportation Commission as Executive Director of the Mississippi Transportation Department from 2002-2011 where he was able to four lane and improve thousands of miles of roads and bridges across the state. After leaving MDOT, he returned to Natchez and was reelected to a third term as Mayor in 2012.