Debra V. Powe Brown

Debra V. Powe Brown

Debra V. Powe Brown is the daughter of the late C.J. Powe, retired insurance executive of the former Booker T. Washington Insurance Company and Vera H. Powe, instructor at Booker T. Washington Business College; and the first African American Benefits Payment Supervisor for the Social Security Administration-Birmingham Payment Center.

Brown graduated from John Herbert Phillips High School.

She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and completed the Mayor’s Institute in Urban Design from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Brown was the first African American woman to be appointed by former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton as Director of the City’s Division of Housing and Community Development and served on the Mayor’s Federal Initiatives Lobbying Team.  She was appointed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen to the Board of Employee Assistance Professionals and to the Tennessee Beautiful Commission.

Brown currently serves as an Executive Committee Member of the Tennessee State NAACP; member of the Executive Committee of the Memphis Branch NAACP; and served several terms as 1st Vice President of the Memphis Branch NAACP.

She is a member of the historic Mt. Olive Cathedral CME Church; member of the Memphis Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., and a 1997 graduate of Leadership Memphis.

She is married and the mother of two adult children and the grandmother of two.

An Account of Growing Up in Birmingham in 1963

I attended Brunetta C. Hill Elementary School and grew up in Smithfield, near the historic A. H. Parker High School.

I was a member of First Congregational Christian Church (United Church of Christ). My church was very much involved in social justice and the Civil Rights Movement. I would attend some of the civil rights meetings with my parents.

In 1963, my family and I moved to the College Hills neighborhood, about 5 blocks from Dynamite Hill.*

One Sunday in 1965, we were at church and had to be evacuated by Birmingham’s SWAT team and Bomb Squad because a bomb was placed outside in front of a church a block south of our church. This was rather traumatic as church was to be a safe and sacred place. That bomb did not explode.**