Joy San Walker Brown earned a degree in biology, graduating magna cum laude from Spelman College in the 1950s.
By Jaime Sarrio
After years of volunteering in the community and trying to meet the needs of others, Joy San Walker Brown became sick. But instead of cashing in on the good will she had earned over the years, Brown didn’t tell anyone she was ill and asked her daughters — both doctors — to keep her secret.
“She never wanted people to worry,” said her daughter Dr. SannaGai Brown. “She deeply cared for the community and children of the community, but my mother was very private in a lot of ways.”
Joy San Walker Brown died Oct. 25. Murray Brothers Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
A celebration of Brown’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Spelman College’s Sister Chapel. Guests are asked to wear her favorite colors, black and white.
Since Brown’s death, her daughters have received calls from friends surprised by her passing but eager to share memories of the charismatic woman who was a pillar of Atlanta’s service community.
Born in Texas, Brown moved to Atlanta to attend Spelman College, where she met her husband, Calvin A. Brown Jr., who became a family physician practicing in the West End area of Atlanta. Like her husband, Brown had ambitions to be a doctor, but ultimately chose to devote herself to motherhood and numerous civic activities. She took on volunteer leadership roles with Spelman, the Atlanta Committee for Public Education, the Fulton County Jury Commission and numerous other organizations.
“We’ve heard repeatedly she loved people and they loved her,” said her daughter Dr. JoiSanne Brown Richmond. “They remember when they first met my mom and she made them feel welcome. I’m not sure where she got that from, but it was something in her long before we came on the scene.”
Brown’s daughters said her civic activities never got in the way of her work at home. But she believed strongly in serving her community and encouraged others to get involved as well. Friends say she took her volunteer roles seriously and treated them like a paid job rather than a pastime. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young attended church with Brown and in the 1980s appointed her chairwoman of the Atlanta Clean City Commission.
“She had a sense of pride about this city being different,” Young said. “She was from that generation that had the opportunity to get a college education when very few people did. And they took that training as a responsibility of service.”
In addition to her daughters, Brown is survived by her sister, Lena Walker Gilmore of Houston; and her brothers, Paul D. Walker of Augusta, Phillip Clifton Turner of Rosharon, Texas, and Lee Vernon Cochran of Washington.