Writer, director and producer Reginald Brown, who taught at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television as a lecturer and visiting assistant professor from the late 90s through 2014, died Jan. 19 from COVID-19 complications in Pasadena. He was 68.
During his time at UCLA TFT, Brown taught production classes with filmmaker Neema Barnette, as well as one with Professor William McDonald.
A beloved colleague and instructor, Brown was known for his warmth and the support he gave to each of his students, following and applauding their successes after graduation as they embarked on their professional careers. Barnette called him “an encouraging, gentle and gifted person.”
Born in Memphis, Tenn., on March 14, 1952, Brown’s professional career began in 1978, when he received an independent filmmaker grant from the American Film Institute to co-write and produce the dramatic short film “Homecomin’.” In 1981, the TV Lab at WNET/Thirteen in New York awarded him a full production grant from the Independent Documentary Fund for Public Television with additional funding from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Under the auspices of the TV Lab, he wrote, produced and directed the 1982 documentary “I Remember Beale Street,” about a once-thriving Black community that was the center of Black culture in the South and the legendary birthplace of the blues.
The success of the documentary led Brown to a seven-year relationship with Anheuser-Busch Companies, the United Negro College Fund and the annual “Lou Rawls Parade of Stars” telethon, for which he worked as a coordinating producer, writer and segment director from 1985 to 1992.
Brown’s TV credits include such specials as “Celebrate the Soul of American Music,” “Musical Threads: Expressions of a People,” “African American Heritage Awards” and “Today’s Child: Tomorrow’s Hope.” In 1990, he wrote and directed “America Salutes Rosa Parks” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In 1995, he served as a writer and associate producer for “Ella Fitzgerald: 60 Years of Music” at the Universal Amphitheater and H. B. Barnum’s “Celebration of Gospel Music” at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. He was the writer of “The 18th Annual Stellar Gospel Awards” and the “2005 Trumpet Awards,” and writer/co-producer of “The Gospel of Music with Jeff Majors.”
Additionally, he produced work for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the Writers Guild of America West, Universal Pictures and the 21st Annual NAACP Theatre Awards. For the U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage Commemorative Stamp Series, he wrote and directed “Roy Wilkins: A View from the Classroom.”
Brown’s theater directing credits include “Great Women of Color,” which he also wrote, and the award-winning musical “Hattie, What I Need You to Know.”
He was a scholarship selection committee member for the Children’s Defense Fund’s annual Los Angeles Beat the Odds Awards and coordinated the Directors Guild of America’s Student Film Awards, representing the African American Steering Committee. For his tireless dedication to inner-city youth, Brown was awarded the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Community Volunteer Award in 2010.
Brown received his bachelor of arts degree in drama from UC Irvine and his master’s in film from San Francisco State University. He was a member of the Writers Guild of America West, the Directors Guild of America and was the former co-chair of the DGA’s African American Steering Committee. His other credits include the documentaries “Witness to a Dream” and “A Profile in Courage: Linda L. Smith.” His last project was writing and co-producing “The Last Mambo,” a documentary about Afro-Cuban music in the Bay Area.
In addition to UCLA TFT and USC, Brown also taught at Pepperdine and Los Angeles Southwest College.
He is survived by his wife, Robin; his children, Brian and Brittany; his mother; three brothers; a sister and grandchildren.