Richard F. Brown, Fire Chief
Died in the Line of Duty: September 10, 1910
Cause of Death: On-Duty Vehicle Accident
Perhaps the best-liked Chief Engineer the San José Fire Department ever had. Chief Brown was described as “a most zealous and efficient officer”; “a public official nearest the ideal”; “personally one of the most popular men in the city.”
Son of an earlier Chief of both the Police and Fire Departments in San José, born in San José in 1873, Chief Brown grew up in and around firehouses. Appointed Fireman of Franklin Engine 3 in 1886, he became Foreman in 1898. For the next three years he was appointed Fire Chief.
Popular though he was, he was not without enemies in the rough-and-tumble ward politics of the day. Fired in 1904 for alleged abuses in department disciplinary procedures, he was restored to his post when a new city administration took over in July 1908.
Returning from the Coast Convention of Fire Chiefs in 1910 Chief Brown lost control of his Winton Chief’s car near South San Francisco. It overturned, crushing him beneath it.
His funeral procession down San José’s First Street, a mile and a half in length, witnessed by thousands, was unique in local history. A monument to his memory, paid for by popular subscription, can be seen beneath the shade trees of Oak Hill Memorial Park. Also liquidated by popular subscription was the mortgage with which his widow was left by his death.