Charles L. Brown

Charles L. Brown – Engineer and Library Benefactor

In September of 2004 it was announced that Ann Lee Brown, widow of Charles L. Brown, had donated $5 million to the University of Virginia Library as an endowment for the Science and Engineering Library in Clark Hall. In recognition of Mrs. Brown’s generosity and in honor of her late husband the Science and Engineering Library was renamed the Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library. This webpage presents information about Mr. Brown and his illustrious career.

Charles Lee Brown was born on August 23, 1921 in Richmond, Virginia. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1943 with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. He then entered the U.S. Navy, and served in the Pacific theatre of World War II aboard the battleship U.S.S. Mississippi. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant. Upon leaving military service, he joined the AT&T Long Lines department in Hartford, Conn. He progressed rapidly through a series of management positions of increasing responsibility, becoming vice president and general manager of Illinois Bell in 1963. Six years later, he was elected CEO of that company. He became executive vice president of AT&T in 1974 and vice chairman of the board and chief financial officer of AT&T in 1976. He became president of AT&T in 1977, and chairman of the board in 1979.

In 1982 Mr. Brown made the decision to divest all of the Bell Telephone Companies as a means of settling antitrust litigation with the Federal government. His action produced the largest corporate reorganization in history. He also led AT&T’s initial efforts to establish business units and partnerships in Europe and Asia. The January 1, 1984, “divestiture” of AT&T unleashed a wave of deregulation and market competition that continues today in customers’ ability to choose their telephone equipment and services. At the time of the breakup, AT&T had some 975,000 employees. The company formally changed its name to AT&T Corporation in 1994. The local telephone spinoffs are known today as BellSouth Corporation, Qwest Communications International, SBC Corporation and Verizon Communications Inc. In 1996 AT&T divested its equipment-manufacturing operations into Lucent Technologies, which subsequently spun off Avaya Inc. and Agere Systems Inc.

During and following his AT&T career Mr. Brown served on the boards of directors of many corporations, including E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Metropolitan Life, Delta Airlines, Chemical Bank, General Foods, Hart Schaffner & Marx and Ryder Systems. He also served on the Board of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and The Institute for Advanced Study and was a Trustee of the Aspen Institute and chairman of the board of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He was a member of the board of visitors at the University of Virginia and a trustee of the University of Chicago, Loyola University in Chicago and Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill. He was also a member of the Business Council, the Business Roundtable and numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, YMCA, Travelers Aid Society and the National Parks Foundation. He was also a trustee of the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

In addition to his University of Virginia degree Mr. Brown held honorary doctorates conferred by Colgate University, Princeton University, Amherst College, Northwestern University and Pace University.


Press Release (October 1, 2004) announcing $10.5 million gift to Science Library and to the U.Va. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Virginia Engineering Magazine (Spring 2005) announcing Brown gift to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the Science & Engineering Library.

Bell System Memorial — Bell System History is a collection of articles about the Bell Telephone System and its divestiture. The section entitled “The Bell System” is an article authored by Charles L. Brown taken from the Encyclopedia of Telecommunications, Marcel Dekker, 1991. ©Marcel Dekker, All Rights Reserved.


Charles L. Brown, 1943
UVA 4th Year

Assistant Attorney General William Baxter and AT&T Chairman and CEO Charles L. Brown shake hands after announcing the agreement to break up the Bell System in settlement of an anti-trust suit in 1982.Charles L. Brown

Charles L. Brown

Charles L. Brown

Ann Lee Brown, October 2004

Ann Lee Brown, October 2004