There’s one piece of advice longtime Cheyenne philanthropist Maury Brown would tell that always stuck with his longtime friend Phil Kiner: "If you share it, it doesn’t cost you anything.”
Brown, well known as a University of Wyoming super-booster and for his countless acts of charity that benefited not only the Cheyenne community but all of Wyoming, died Monday at the age of 90.
“Wyoming was his life,” said Mike Moser, a longtime friend of Brown.
On Friday, Brown will become the third person in the last 17 years to be honored with a moment of silence before a University of Wyoming football game, joining Wyoming greats Mick McMurry and Paul Roach, said UW Athletics Director Tom Burman.
“I have no doubt he deserves to be recognized by all Cowboy faithful,” Burman said.
Listing off all the charitable efforts and activities Brown was involved in would be exhaustive. Most notably, he gave extensively to UW athletics, the Cheyenne YMCA and 4-H programs.
Brown grew up under very modest circumstances on Cheyenne’s south side. It was his rough upbringing that influenced his deep sense of generosity later in life, said his friend Buck McVeigh.
“He was always very humble,” McVeigh told Cowboy State Daily. “He always felt an obligation to give back to the state.”
According to a 2016 Wyoming Tribune Eagle story, Brown and his family moved to Cheyenne when he was 9, following his uncle, who started a grocery store in the capital city. Growing up, Brown would sell newspapers and shine shoes at his family’s businesses, which included a hardware store, liquor store and grocery stores.
Moser said Brown’s family lived in the upstairs of the grocery store.
It was during an era at the end of the Great Depression when everyone did whatever they could to get by and most people only had each other for support.
While other teenagers were out playing sports and enjoying the last years of their childhood, Brown was busy working at his parent’s businesses.
His family later owned the Town and Country Shopping Center, where Brown owned a liquor store until his death.
Moser, also the executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association, said Brown was an incredible advocate for the state’s liquor industry and was always sticking up for small business owners, because that’s who he was at heart.
“He loved small business because that’s where he got his start,” Moser said. “Bottom line, there will never be another Maury Brown.”
Moser considers Brown one of the best businessmen in Wyoming history. His success was an even larger testament to the fact that very little was handed to him in life.
After winning a $100 prize for becoming the first person to break a 100 score at the Cheyenne Trap and Skeet Club, Kiner said Brown used the money to help start his oil and gas company.
Brown eventually saw great success in the fossil fuels industry, benefitting from the particularly lucrative oil drilling in the Powder River Basin.
But he never forgot where he came from and was always a champion for those less fortunate, in many ways seeing a younger version of himself in them, McVeigh said.
“Maury realized how blessed he was and by God, wanted to share that wealth,” McVeigh said. “He realized, whether you like it or not, he had those means. Most people don’t have that kind of money.”
A Passion For Giving
Kiner said Brown never sought attention for his charitable acts and often made his gifts behind the scenes.
“The average citizen doesn’t have any idea how much Maury did for all these things,” he said.
McVeigh remembered how adamant Brown was about paying for his friend’s meals whenever they went out to eat. On one occasion when Brown forgot his wallet, McVeigh paid, but Brown later insisted he accept his full payment for the entire meal.
“He was superstitious,” McVeigh said. “He said, ‘if I don’t buy it, it’s bad luck.’”
Backer Of The Pokes
Although Brown may have given without any expectation of recognition, some of his donations were too large not to recognize.
When UW was in a financial pinch and needed a new basketball court at the school’s Arena-Auditorium in 2014, Brown stepped in and covered the cost. Now, that hardwood is named in his honor, as well as a dining hall on campus.
He made other generous donations and sponsorships to the athletic department and employed many of the school’s athletes at his businesses.
Many of the school’s athletes, Burman said, come from less fortunate backgrounds, an identity Brown felt a great deal of comradery with because of his own blue-collar upbringing.
“He had a soft spot for kids who came from a more challenging background,” Burman said.
To his death, Burman said Brown maintained a great relationship with many of these athletes, like former UW and NBA basketball player Reggie Slater.
Brown was particularly passionate about the importance of NCAA Division I sports in the state of Wyoming and the visibility it created.
“He was just one of those guys that had a vision and believed college athletics was an important part of the university and an important part of the state and he wanted to support it,” Burman said.
Brown also would arrange luxury bus trips from Cheyenne to Denver Broncos football games, where he would host children from the local Boys and Girls Club and staff from the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in his suite at the stadium. He would do the same at his suite at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
“He was always so generous,” McVeigh said.
Brown gave to numerous other causes such as 4-H and the Cheyenne YMCA, where he can be thanked for its pool and basketball court.
“That’s a Maury Brown,” McVeigh said.
His lost years of childhood, Kiner said, fueled some of his desire to fund athletics.
“He loved basketball, but couldn’t play because he had to come home and work,” Kiner said. “He wanted the kids to be able to play basketball.”
In his later years of his life Brown also sponsored the Maury Brown Kids Fishing Day with Wyoming Game and Fish, where he would host 300 kids at his 300-acre stocked pond on his ranch northwest of Cheyenne. Brown also bought animals each year at the 4-H Livestock Sale that concludes the Laramie County Fair.
Nathan Breen said Brown also took a particular interest in Jewish culture and history, even though he wasn’t Jewish himself. Brown funded a class at Laramie Community College on the Holocaust, paying for a group of Cheyenne school teachers to attend it at no cost. The only expectation was that they would teach their students what they learned in their own classrooms and with the free books they received.
Breen was part of the first year of teachers to receive this free education.
“He thought it was really important it’d be taught in school,” Breen said. “He was an incredible friend to the Jewish community.”
Brown also sponsored trips to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and covered most of the costs for local teachers to go.
On one occasion, Brown bought thousands of dollars worth of bus tokens to give to riders on the Cheyenne Transit city bus service when the downtown Cheyenne Safeway store closed, allowing shoppers to travel to the south side to get their groceries.
“He really valued Cheyenne and he really valued young people and their dreams and goals and endeavors, whether it be 4-H or sports or whatever, he was always willing to chip in and help,” Burman said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.