A Remembrance of Louis Brownlow

Date01 January 2014
Published date01 January 2014
Douglas W. Ayres holds degrees
from Roanoke College, the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and
Syracuse University. He was with the Public
Administration Service for three tenures
totaling a decade. He was town clerk and
assistant town manager of Salem, Virginia;
city manager of Melbourne, Florida; Salem,
Oregon; and Inglewood, California; and
general manager of Leisure World, Laguna
Hills. He was simultaneously professor
of public f‌i nance in the Graduate School
of the University of Southern California
and founder and chief executive off‌i cer
of Management Services, Inc., a forensic
accounting, f‌i nancial services, and municipal
bond underwriting f‌i rm with more than
350 client jurisdictions for some 750
engagements. He is retired and lives in
Sedona, Arizona.
E-mail: dougsedona@esedona.net
12 Public Administration Review • January | February 2014
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 1, pp. 12–13. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12178.
Douglas W. Ayres
Editor’s Note: is Perspective is the f‌i rst
in a series of ref‌l ections about ASPA’s
founders in commemoration of the Society’s
75th anniversary.
The National Governmental Center (NGC)
was part of the University of Chicago and
headquartered on its campus, at 1313 East
60th Street.  e NGC was the repository and center
of much governmental innovation and knowledge
from 1930 deep into the 1970s. “1313” housed
the National Governors’ Conference, International
City Managers Association, American Public Works
Association, American Public Welfare Association,
International Public Personnel Association, American
Waterworks Association, American Society for Public
Administration (ASPA), and Municipal Finance
Of‌f‌i cers Association, among many similar groups. A
Nazi-sympathizing organization called it “a conspiracy
by well-educated career bureaucrats who control the
government of the United States” (Hindman 1959).
Louis Brownlow, a founder of ASPA, also founded the
NGC in 1933.
e Public Administration Service (PAS), the consult-
ing, research, central services, and publishing branch
of the NGC, had two regional of‌f‌i ces: one in San
Francisco and the other in Washington, D.C. In
1961–62, I headed the latter.
Brownlow was a third-grade dropout from Buf‌f alo,
Missouri. But, as he was wont to say, “I was cursed
with a photographic memory. I not only can remem-
ber and call up word-for-word everything I have ever
read or heard and everyone I have met, but the curse
is that I can’t FORGET anything, either.
He had been a newspaper reporter assigned to the
White House during the tenure of Woodrow Wilson,
who got to know and respect Brownlow. In 1915,
Wilson appointed Brownlow as one of the three
commissioners who then ran the government of the
District of Columbia. After his initial Washington
service, Brownlow went on to be city manager of
Petersburg, Virginia, and Knoxville, Tennessee, and
advisor to every president from Wilson through John F.
In 1962, Brownlow was 83, widowed, and living alone
in D.C. While he was somewhat frail of body, he had
not lost a step intellectually and still of‌f ered insights,
advice, and a sense of history to a vast array of govern-
ment of‌f‌i cials.  e PAS president “assigned” me to
“take Mr. Brownlow to lunch at the Willard Hotel
every Wednesday noon” that I was in Washington.
After the f‌i rst engagement, it would have taken a
major emergency for me to miss my Wednesday lunch
with “Brownie,” as he insisted I call him.
Louis Brownlow was a founding father of the modern
United States. In 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt made
him chair of what became known as the “Brownlow
Commission” but of‌f‌i cially was the President’s
Committee on Administrative Management. In 1937,
this group and Brownlow’s fertile mind produced
numerous “inventions.” Few have any concept from
whence they came. Among these were the Of‌f‌i ce of
the President, the executive annual budget, the Of‌f‌i ce
of Management and Budget (originally called the
Bureau of the Budget), staf‌f assistants to the president,
and the federal f‌i scal year.
Early one Wednesday, I received an extremely rare
telephone call from Mr. Brownlow. He simply asked,
“Could I bring a guest to lunch today?” Naturally, I
consented, but I wondered whether Mr. Brownlow,
a widower for several years now, was to squire a lady
I went to the Willard a bit early and there was Mr.
Brownlow, waiting. Another distinguished-looking
gentlemen, not a lady, accompanied him. If possible,
the man appeared to be even more dapper and elderly
than Brownlow.
A Remembrance of Louis Brownlow

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