Brown County History Museum celebrates 35 years by honoring 35 donors, volunteers and organizations

Jimmy Potts
Brown County Museum of History Board Member Nick Ewen presents radio personality Bob “Tumbleweed Smith” Lewis with a special award for his show “The Sounds of Texas.”

The Brown County History Museum honored 35 area residents to commemorate its 35th anniversary.

In order to honor those who helped preserve history, museum officials recognized 35 residents, including local radio host Bob “Tumbleweed Smith” Lewis and Pat Coursey, who Museum Board Member Nick Ewen said the museum would not exist without his efforts.

“We could not be celebrating a 35th anniversary of the museum, if the museum had never been founded,” Ewen said. “That took the vision of one person … His name is Pat Coursey. Pat is the reason this museum exists. He had the vision from the very beginning. The county built a new, modern jail in 1981 and closed the old, native stone building that housed the jail since 1903. He sat at the magnificent building and knew it should be preserved.”

Coursey, who would later serve on the Brownwood City Council for 21 years, said getting the museum off the ground was not easy. It struggled in its first 10 years, but once he convinced the city council to fund the museum with the city’s hotel-motel tax, which provided it a source of revenue and a means to remain open.

“It has taken the work of a lot of dedicated people. It was a tough go the first 10 years,” Coursey said. “Nobody wanted to give us any money and I had my doubts at the time if we would survive or not. We did and the people that are running it now are doing a great job. The museum looks well established and the biggest thing is the public has faith in it and is willing to give their memorabilia to the museum and that makes it bigger and better.”

Among those honored Tuesday night were various city and county officials as well as dozens of volunteers and members of the media who helped conduct and publicize various exhibits throughout its history. One notable honoree was Tumbleweed Smith, famous for his “The Sounds of Texas” broadcast and its contributions to preserving Brown County history. But before he could take the stage Ewen first recognized an attendee whose name will appear atop the building hundreds occupied Tuesday night.

Ewen recognized Mary Sue Blake while detailing a grant made by an anonymous donor. The donor made the grant as part of a two-phase renovation. The first phase included the recently added murals outside of the museum. Ewen said the grant had two stipulations: the donor remain anonymous and museum officials name the museum after Robert and Mary Sue Blake, who remember driving by Camp Bowie when they first came to Brownwood.

“We wanted to honor them for their long association with Brownwood and their lives here as business owners,” Ewen said. “Our honorees are our special guests and we wanted to honor them as civic supporters or our community. [Mary Sue Blake] and her husband moved here in 1949 and were actually traveling through this area in 1940 and actually saw Camp Bowie when it was being built.”

Ewen announced the building that currently houses much of the exhibits associated with the museum would be renamed the Robert H. and Mary S. Blake Center for History Education. He later announced the museum would soon undergo a renovation that would professionally streamline and modernize the Brown County Museum of History.

“We’re so proud to see the museum grow and the future is bright,” Ewen said. “… There are great things happening. There is such a great story here. Such a wonderful and rich history in Brown County and that is the honor of a museum — to share it with you.”