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Ex-football coach dies

He led Clearwater High through 11 winning seasons and five Pinellas championships.

By BOB PUTNAM
Published April 10, 2007


CLEARWATER - Earle Brown, who in 20 seasons as the football coach at Clearwater High won 128 games, died Monday April 9, 2007 of natural causes in Tallahassee. He was 90.

Mr. Brown, a University of Tennessee standout (1938-45), took over a Clearwater program in 1958 that had not won a Western Conference game in 18 previous seasons.

Mr. Brown struggled through his first five seasons with the Tornadoes before reeling off 11 straight winning seasons and five Pinellas County Conference championships and a share of a sixth. He also led Clearwater to a 33-game regular season win streak in the 1970s.

Wins were not the only thing that defined Mr. Brown. He could inspire with the best and mentored scores of players who went on to play in college or the pros.

"Earle was a great coach and real fun to be around," said former Northeast coach Jerry Austin, who surpassed Brown as the county's all-time "winningest" coach in 1996.

Mr. Brown stopped coaching in 1978. He dabbled in antiques before moving to Tallahassee two years ago, said his son-in-law, Alex Taylor.

Mr. Brown's health started declining shortly after he celebrated his 90th birthday in January. He lost his ability to walk and speak, though he was mentally aware, said Taylor.

But of all the factors that defined Brown, longevity was most important. He outlived most of his peers.

In 2005, then-Clearwater City Council member Hoyt Hamilton delivered a heartfelt eulogy for Brown during a council meeting.

One problem: Brown wasn't dead.

"(Earle) got a real chuckle out of that," Taylor said.

Mr. Brown's funeral information was not available at press time Monday.

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@sptimes.com or at (727) 445-4169.