Long Beach legend Willie Brown died Thursday of cancer at 76

Willie Brown, one of Long Beach’s most celebrated and beloved athletes, died of cancer on Thursday in Carson. He was 76.

Brown was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Dec. 2, 1940. His family moved to Long Beach when he was 2. They lived in a duplex with the family of another Poly High School star, Dee Andrews, now the city’s vice mayor and 6th District councilman.

A saddened Andrews was reached by phone at his home Thursday evening. “He was like a little brother to me,” said Andrews. “We knew each other all our lives.

“He was always very humble for being such a great man. He was humble and honest. If he said something, you could take it to the bank.”

Brown attended  Poly High in the late 1950s, when he won all-city honors not only in football, but in basketball and baseball as well.

He was a three-year letterman (1961-63) and two-time All-Conference first teamer (1962-63) in football at USC, he was a member of USC’s 1962 national championship team and captained the 1963 squad.

He also lettered three years (1962-64) as a centerfielder and shortstop on the Trojan baseball team, including the 1963 squad that won the College World Series.

Brown went on to play three seasons in the NFL with the L.A. Rams (1964-65) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1966) before returning to USC as an assistant football coach for eight years, coaching the 1972 and 1974 national champion teams.

He is survived by his wife Carole, son Brian, daughter Kimberly and two grandchildren as well as his brother Oscar, who played baseball at USC and with the Atlanta Braves. Brown’s other brother Ollie, who played major league baseball with six different teams, died in 2015.

Services are pending.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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