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Brown often played bosses, doctors, and other dignified professional men, although on stage where he began, he also tackled Shakespeare and other more complicated parts. Brown began acting while in the army and then at college during the 1940s. By 1968, he had joined the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC), acting with Rosalind Cash, Frances Foster, Clarice Taylor, Bill Cobbs, and Hattie Winston. He made his Broadway debut the same year, in Gore Vidal's Weekend. He played one of the leads, Dr. Dudley Stanton, in the NEC's The River Niger (1972) which moved to Broadway the following year. His Shakespearean roles, with the Joseph Papp Shakespeare Festival, included Helicanus in Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1972), the Bishop of Carlisle in Richard II (1987), and Antigonus in The Winter's Tale (1989). In 1993, he joined the Theatre for a New Audience for more Shakespeare, including the King of France in Henry V and Duncan and Siward in a 1999 production of Macbeth (his final stage role).
While maintaining a busy stage career, Brown also made TV appearances on Law & Order (usually as a judge), Days of Our Lives, Lou Grant, and Sanford and Son. Film credits include Malcolm X, Clockers, and Bloodhounds of Broadway.