In late March of this year, when I decided to write this article about my husband, I had no idea that within two weeks he would be rushed to the hospital, confront a life-threatening hemorrhaging abdominal aortic aneurysm and nearly die.
On April 7th, Paul called my cell phone to tell our daughters and me that he was in excruciating pain. As we rushed to his side, we prayed an emergency Memorare Novena. In light of the miraculous events that unfolded in those crucial days after that rupture, it occurred to me that the Blessed Mother has plans for Paul that we could not have known but are grateful for to this very moment.
You see, Paul has been a heroic leader in our pro-life fight in his own right from his first days in pro-life political action in the mid-1970s. Shortly after pro-life heroine and Democrat Ellen McCormack launched her bid to run for president of the United States in 1976, Paul became interested in politics himself and believed he, too, could make a difference.
He, along with Sean Morton Downey Jr. and Robert L. Sassone founded the nation’s first national pro-life political action committee, Life Amendment Political Action Committee (LAPAC). Paul lead our family into this venture with total faith that somebody in the political end of things had to take action, get the pro-abortion senators and representatives out of office and focus on the bad guys. And that is exactly what LAPAC did.
During that first election year, 1980, LAPAC targeted a dozen United States Senators, known as the “deadly dozen.” The fact that this small cadre of highly motivated folks, Paul and his cohorts, were willing to take on the big guns caught the attention of most of the major media, including People magazine. As I look back on that time in our lives, it is astounding that not only did the major networks and news publications cover LAPAC, but they did so with immense enthusiasm.
The reason, of course, is that they thought the LAPAC effort would fail. It did not. And the results were that by focusing only on pro-abort senators and NOT endorsing any so-called pro-life candidates, 11 of their dozen were defeated, including Senator George McGovern (SD), Senator Birch Bayh (IN), and Senator John Dirkin (IL).
Paul taught me all sorts of valuable lessons during his stint as the pro-life movement’s number one political strategist. Among them are things we still practice today, such as accepting the fact that members of the press are always out to embarrass or otherwise demean pro-life folks. Like Paul, I was told on a number of occasions never to attempt to use a photo or image of a preborn victim on camera or it would be promptly removed, along with him or me as the presenter.
Even on the late 70s, the media did not want the public to SEE what abortion looked like, or for that matter, what a preborn child looked like. That alone prompted us to wonder on occasion just how successful LAPAC would be, but in spite of the media, LAPAC did great things.
Once it became clear that LAPAC had used a good strategy to defeat enemies of life without endorsing anyone, the media was no longer interested, as they could not poke a finger in the eye of the leaders of LAPAC and laugh at their overzealous, impossible-to-achieve goals. Contrary to their wisdom, you see, LAPAC was winning.
But as is the case with many political efforts, after LAPAC’s initial victories, pro-life PACs began to proliferate and Paul moved on to help me grow ALL by becoming a master at fund- raising and growing the organization.
Other pro-life work
There are so many things over the years that began because of ideas that Paul had and theories that were proven to be correct, that it would take a book to write about all of them. But to name a couple: He became the first person to suggest and then implement newspaper inserts as a way of building the credibility of American Life League.
These newspaper supplements helped grow our numbers, but at the same time educate folks about what they need to know not only about abortion but about Planned Parenthood and other concerns impacting the daily lives of pro-life Americans and their families.
One of the funniest stories Paul tells is about the time our tech guy came into his office to explain that he wanted to learn more about “email” so that he could teach others how to use it. Yes, that’s right! Back in the late 1980s nobody in our offices knew a thing about computerized forms of communication. But Paul knew enough to give him the go-ahead.
Soon after that Paul worked with a couple of ALL board of directors advisors to arrange for the production of the first ever pro-life video-fed national conference. We featured lots of amazing speakers, including the much-loved Cardinal John O’Connor, Nellie Gray, and many others. To this very day, there are folks who can recall that event, UNITY 90, and still tell stories about how it affected them in a positive way. We could not replicate that event again, however, as the team that we had in place moved on to other adventures.
During the 1990s, Paul organized all kinds of ads and used pressure tactics which he taught ALL to help us expose the very bad Clinton health-care proposal. He and professional cartoonist, Dick Hafer, wrote a comic book about “Bill and Hillary’s Excellent Adventure” that put a humorous spin on a very bad proposal. The bill finally died.
Paul Brown was on the cutting edge of so many different tactics in those days. We held many press conferences during the 90s and the first decade of the 21st century, and most of them were focused on being, first and foremost, controversial. It did become harder and harder, though, to gain the media attention that we felt the pro-life message required, and Paul recommended changing over from mass press releases distribution to personal phone calls, to visits with specific reporters, and so on.
American Life League made progress in our efforts to gain media attention, but never to the extent we felt we should have gotten. Paul attributed that to the media’s devotion to the abortion industry, and, of course, he was correct.
A man with an immense heart
Paul has been described over the years as a “risk-taker,” a man who never met a problem or a challenge he would not face head on and overcome by sheer wit, and sometimes real grit!
But he is most affectionately remembered by folks who have worked for him as well as with him. They describe him as a remarkable man who has an immense heart, a very wise perspective and the intellect of a titan.
Paul has often said of himself that if he had dedicated his efforts to the dollar bill instead of the babies and his family, he could have given Donald Trump a run for his money. But to those of us who know and love him just the way he is, we are grateful to God that he has chosen to devote himself to his family and to guiding us at American Life League, providing the fundraising fuel for the engine that makes it possible for us to defend life, family and, most of all, truth.
He has often defined his role in this work as that of the “unknown pro-lifer.” But to me, he is literally and figuratively the wind beneath my wings. During our 50 years of marriage, we have done everything together, in the happiest of times, the worst of times, the saddest of times, and most recently, the most incredibly frightening of times.
I thank God that Paul lived so that he could read this long-overdue tribute to him and his incredible contribution to the world—our world, including our children, our 12 grandchildren, and our pro-life efforts.
God is good!
Guided by unwavering faith in the sanctity of all human life, Judie has served as the conscience, soul, heart, and mind of ALL. Gifted with an exceptionally creative yet practical mind, as well as a determination to find solutions rather than focus on problems, Paul has been the driving force providing the oxygen that makes ALL’s work possible. While Paul’s leadership was perhaps on rare occasions misguided—I still have nightmares of handing out pro-life comic books on the streets of Las Vegas—his love for the babies, ALL, and his bride was always clear, and together he and Judie have trained the next generation of pro-lifers. Thank you, Paul—we’ll keep up the good fight until the babies are safe. —Patrick Murphy
I first met Paul Brown over 25 years ago at American Life League’s Unity 90 conference. The conference was physically held in Chicago, but people from all over the country saw it on a local screen, as it was the first pro-life conference broadcast live by satellite. The technology was very new at the time, but that made no difference to Paul. He was then, and is now, the man with the vision. When I visited American Life League’s offices in Stafford, Virginia, I found he had created a TV studio in the building so ALL people could do live TV interviews with media in Washington, DC, without leaving the office. The quality of the installation was so good, other area business people would use it when ALL staff was not. In addition to starting LAPAC in 1978, Paul created the American Life Lobby in 1979. A few years later, Nick Thimmesch, national columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, characterized American Life Lobby as “the Marine Corps of the pro-life movement.” Paul is a mentor, an inspiration, and a friend. He is the ultimate advocate for the babies. —Jim Sedlak