Virginia Mae Brown

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Virginia Mae Brown
Virginia Mae Brown.jpg
Born November 13, 1923
Pliny, West Virginia
Died February 15, 1991(1991-02-15) (aged 67)
Charleston, West Virginia[1]
Residence Charleston, West Virginia
Occupation civil servant
Known for Interstate Commerce Commission chairperson
Spouse(s) James Vernon Brown
(married Apr 8, 1955)[2]
Children Victoria Ann (b. 1956)
Pamela Kay (b. 1960)
Parents Felix M. Brown
Hester Ann Crandall[2]

Virginia Mae Brown (November 13, 1923 – February 15, 1991) was an American civil servant, government official, and lawyer.

Early life[edit]

Brown (1923–91) was born on November 13, 1923, in Pliny, West Virginia.[3] She had a sister (Anna) that was a year older and a brother (Winston) that was two years younger than her in the Brown family.[4] The U.S. Census shows the Brown family to be living in Buffalo, West Virginia, in 1930 and 1940 - just across the Kanawha River from Pliny (where she was born).[4][5] The 1940 U.S. Census shows Brown to be in her third year of High School.[5] She graduated from Point Pleasant High School in 1941 at the age of 17.[6]

Brown immediately then attended West Virginia University and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree.[6] She acquired the nickname "Peaches" while attending the University.[7] Immediately after graduating from West Virginia University she taught at Winfield High School in Putnam County, West Virginia, for a year and a half.[6] Brown enrolled in the West Virginia University College of Law after teaching at Winfield High School.[8]

Mid life[edit]

Brown earned her law degree graduating from West Virginia University College of Law in 1947.[8] Brown's first job after college was as a law clerk to West Virginia attorney general Ira J. Partlow.[8] In 1949 she was appointed West Virginia Judicial Council executive secretary.[8] In 1952 she became an assistant to Attorney General John G. Fox, becoming West Virginia's first female assistant attorney general.[8] William Wallace Barron reappointed Brown as assistant attorney general in 1956.[8] In the early part of 1961, Barron (who was then West Virginia Governor) appointed Brown as his legal advisor.[9]

Brown was named West Virginia's Insurance Commissioner in May 1961. This promotion made her the first female insurance commissioner in the United States.[8] Barron made Brown a member of the West Virginia Public Service Commission in September 1962, being the only woman in the state to have this position.[8] Brown was appointed a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission ("ICC") in March 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the first female since its inception in 1887.[10] She was promoted as the first female chairperson of the Interstate Commerce Commission by President Johnson in 1969 for a one year term.[10] Brown was referred to as the 'First Lady of Transportation'.[7] She is the first woman to direct a regulatory commission in the United States.[11]

Brown served in 1967 as a delegate on the Inland Transport Committee to the United Nations. The meeting took place in Geneva, Switzerland.[12]

Later life and death[edit]

After Brown left the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1979, she was president and chairwoman of the board of the Buffalo Bank of Eleanor. From 1983 through 1991 she served in the United States Department of Health and Human Services office of hearing appeals in Charleston, West Virginia, in the position of chief administrative law judge. In Charleston on February 15 of 1991[1] she died of a heart attack.[13]


Brown married James V. Brown, a Charleston lawyer, making her married name the same as her maiden name. They had two daughters. Their marriage ended in a divorce.[10]

The Browns owned a 700-acre estate in Pliny (West Virginia) once owned by George Washington that was deeded to her ancestors in the eighteenth century.[11]


Brown was a member of the

  • Putman County Bar Association[6]
  • West Virginia State Bar[6]


Brown was a member of the Presbyterian Christian faith.[2]


Adlai Stevenson wrote a poem concerning Brown:

Peaches, thy beauty is to me
Like thy decisions on the ICC.[7]


Brown has set several "first woman" records in high level government management positions previously held only by men:[8]

  • First woman executive secretary to the West Virginia Judicial Council (1949), a position no woman in the United States had ever served.[8]
  • First woman executive secretary to the Judicial Council of West Virginia (1944–52).[14]
  • First woman in West Virginia to be the state's assistant attorney general (1952–61).[6]
  • First woman insurance commissioner in the United States (1961).[8]
  • First woman to be West Virginia Public Service Commission member (1962).[14]
  • First woman chairperson of an independent federal agency, the United States Interstate Commerce Commission (1969–70).[13][14][15]


  1. ^ a b U.S. Social Security Death Index, 1935-current;
  2. ^ a b c d e Kestenbaum, Lawrence (July 22, 2013). "Presbyterian Politicians in West Virginia". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Certificate of Birth". West Virginia Division of Culture and History. West Virginia Vital Statictics. December 10, 1923. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  4. ^ a b, 1930 United States Census, Buffalo, Putman, West Virginia, Roll 2552, Page 9B, Enumeration District:0002; Image 414.0; FHL microfilm: 2342286
  5. ^ a b, 1940 United States Census, Buffalo, Putman, West Virginia, Roll T627_4440, Page 9B, Enumeration District:40-3
  6. ^ a b c d e f Wilson 1970, p. 5, v 31.
  7. ^ a b c Harry Ernst (May 29, 1966). "'First Lady of Transportation', What's Next for Virginia Mae?". West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "'Woman's Viewpoint' Subject Of Mrs. Brown's Talk Here". West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Clarksburg Sunday Exponent-Telegram. October 11, 1964. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Virginia Mae Brown, Charleston Daily Mail, March 5, 1964". West Virginia Archives and History. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c Joan Cook (February 27, 1991). "Virginia Mae Brown Dies at 67; First Woman to Head the I.C.C.". New York New York Times. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "New Scenery for the ICC". Time magazine 93 (7): 89–90. 1969-02-14. 
  12. ^ "Mrs. Brown will speak on Tuesday". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, Florida: The Herald-Tribune). April 18, 1968. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Virginia Mae Brown; First Woman on Interstate Commerce Commission". LA L.A. Times. February 28, 1991. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c Read & Witlieb 1992, p. 73.
  15. ^ "Virginia Mae Brown" biography". Transportation Practitioners Journal (Association of Transportation Practitioners) 58: 268. 1990. Retrieved 7 December 2013.