CLAIM TO FAME: Abraham Brown's legend grew with every life he touched.
As a football coach he helped countless poor students at Middleton and Blake earn college scholarships in the 1950s and '60s.
In 1969, while playing an integrated schedule, he led Blake, at the time an all-black school, to a state football title. It was the most recent time a Hillsborough County school won a state title before Armwood did in 2003.
In the 1960s he was at the forefront of the Hillsborough County's move to integration, first when the black schools played against white schools, and then in 1971 when schools were fully integrated.
More than anything, however, he might best be remembered for how tough he was. Those stories also are countless. An example:
In 1956 Middleton played at St. Petersburg Gibbs, and the Tigers led 7-0. Gibbs, however, drove down and had a first and goal on Middleton's 1-yard line with two minutes left. Brown called a timeout. The team gathered around and Brown said: "I'm getting on that bus, and if you suckers allow them to score I'm driving home alone, and you will walk back to Tampa."
"We were scared to death," running back/defensive back Al Barnes said. "You believed anything the man said. He never said anything he didn't mean."
As the defense ran back to the field, Barnes said they saw Brown pull the bus around the parking lot and wait on the street, watching.
"Any guess what the final score was?" Barnes said. "That's right, 7-0. No way we'd let them score."
For years after that, players asked Brown if he really would have left them.
Brown's reply, with a wink from those fierce eyes: "What do you think?"
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "If I hadn't played football for Abe Brown, I never would have gone to college because I didn't have any money," Barnes said. "I never would have had the courage and strength to do the things I did (became one of first blacks to integrate Hillsborough county schools as a teacher). I would have been a quitter. I have to say I love the man, because if it wasn't for Abe Brown there wouldn't be an Al Barnes. For that matter there wouldn't be a lot of people."
DID YOU KNOW: Middleton, reopened two years ago after being lost to integration in 1971, dedicated its stadium to Brown this fall.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Brown is the leader of Abe Brown ministries, which rehabilitate hundreds of prisoners throughout the state.
WORDS TO LIVE BY: "One of the things my mother always taught me was that work never killed anybody. She always said if a man doesn't work, then he shouldn't eat, and she got that from the Bible. ... When I was growing up we awoke with my mother at 6 a.m., every day. After we ate our breakfast and she went to work we had a list of chores to do, and then we did them. I've carried that idea of work throughout my life. Hard work pays off."