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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Brown, Henry Alexander (Alex) (1900–1986)

by Stuart Braga

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Henry Alexander (Alex) Brown (1900-1986), lay evangelist and Baptist pastor, was born on 12 April 1900 at Darjeeling, India, son of missionary parents Rev. Henry Ryland Brown and his wife June Halliday, née Symington. As a child of 6 Alex was gripped by the ministry of the evangelist Roderick Archibald, whose influence ultimately directed him towards a life similarly spent in children’s evangelism. In 1913 his widowed mother took him to New Zealand, where she had family support. He worked on farms before going to Sydney in the early 1920s with a mission that became the Open Air Campaigners. In December 1923 Edmund Clark, the missioner of the Children’s Special Service Mission (Scripture Union), invited him to join the interdenominational CSSM for three months. The letter of appointment mistakenly offered him a salary of £20 per annum; it should have read £200, but Brown’s commitment was such that he accepted anyway. He studied in 1924 at the Melbourne Bible Institute, and resumed working for the CSSM in February 1925.

After conducting a CSSM camp at Cronulla, Sydney, that summer, Brown took charge of the children’s meetings at the Katoomba Christian Convention, a major annual evangelical rally. He seemed to understand how children thought and felt. A tall, lean man, he used facial expressions to achieve particular effects. He was an individualist who was never discouraged by difficulties, as straightforward in his teaching as he was in his own faith. Bishop Graham Delbridge, an associate in youth ministry, described his style as `effective, simple, childlike but not childish, and always directed at the needs of a person at his particular stage of development in life’.

For thirty-five years Brown travelled around the country setting up bush camps and beach missions, visiting schools and conducting services at local churches. His ministry extended to all States, but was concentrated on New South Wales and Queensland. On 25 February 1934 he married Joyce Samways (d.1974) at the Congregational Church, Sylvania, Sydney. She travelled with him until the birth of their first child in 1941, when they settled at Lewisham, Sydney. In 1949 he was appointed as the Scripture Union’s organising secretary and missioner in South Australia. A decade of solid effort in children’s evangelism culminated in his work for the Billy Graham crusade of 1959.

Brown left the Scripture Union in 1960 to become pastor of the Burnside Christian Church, Adelaide. In 1967 he moved to Cootamundra, New South Wales, where he served as Baptist minister and superintendent of the Baptist churches of the State’s south-west until 1975. He returned to South Australia, as pastor at Millicent (1976-79) and then at Peter-head, Adelaide (1979-80). Survived by his two sons and daughter, he died on 2 March 1986 at Norwood and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. and M. Prince, Tuned in to Change (1979)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Mar 1986, p 15
  • private information.

Citation details

Stuart Braga, 'Brown, Henry Alexander (Alex) (1900–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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