J. E. "Buster" Brown

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James Eugene
"Buster" Brown, Sr.

Texas State Senator for
District 17 (Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Harris counties)
In office
Preceded by A. R. "Babe" Schwartz
Succeeded by Kyle Janek

Presidents Pro Tempore
of the Texas Senate
In office
Preceded by John Leedom
Succeeded by Kent A. Caperton

Born December 10, 1940
Mercedes, Hidalgo County, Texas
Nationality American​
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jill Ann Kerr Brown
Children Jennifer Erin Brown Emerson
Jay Patrick Brown
James "Jeb" Eugene Brown, Jr.
Residence Austin, Travis County, Texas
Alma mater Texas State University

Texas A&M University (Kingsville)
University of Texas School of Law

Occupation Attorney and lobbyist
Religion United Methodist

James Eugene Brown, Sr., known as J. E. "Buster" Brown (born December 10, 1940), is an attorney and lobbyist in the capital city of Austin, Texas,[1] who served from 1981 to 2002 as a Republican member of the Texas State Senate for District 17, based in Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Harris counties, south and west of Houston. When he left the Senate, Brown was the senior Republican in the chamber, having sponsored 633 bills which became law.[2]

In 1990, Brown waged an unsuccessful bid to succeed James Albon "Jim" Mattox (1943–2008) as the state attorney general. Then residing in Lake Jackson, Brown was the GOP nominee[3] but lost to the Democrat Dan Morales of San Antonio. Morales prevailed, 1,729,735 votes (51.81 percent) to Brown's 1,509,553 votes (45.22 percent), with a Libertarian Party candidate holding the remaining share of the vote.[4]

Brown was running on the ticket headed by U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, a Republican who secured a second term that year by defeating Democratic state Senator Hugh Quay Parmer of Fort Worth. In the same election Clayton Wheat "Claytie" Williams, Jr. (1931–2020), a Midland and Fort Stockton businessman lost the race for governor to Democrat Dorothy Ann Willis Richards, the second woman in Texas to hold that position and the mother of former Planned Parenthood director, Cecile Richards. Two other candidates on the Williams ticket with Brown, Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, were narrowly elected as agriculture commissioner and state treasurer, respectively. Twenty years later, they would run against each other for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and Perry would defeat Hutchison.


Brown was born and reared in Mercedes in Hidalgo County, near McAllen in far south Texas. He first attended Texas State University, then known as Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education from Texas A&M University campus in Kingsville, then known as Texas A&I University. He taught high school in Corpus Christi[2] until he subsequently entered the University of Texas School of Law, at which he was the student body president. He began his law practice and was thereafter a briefing attorney with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and later an assistant district attorney in Brazoria County.[5]

In 1980, buoyed by the popularity of the Reagan/Bush ticket, Brown unseated Democratic Senator Aaron Robert "Babe" Schwartz (1926-2018), a veteran lawmaker from Galveston, then in District 17. Brown was recruited as a candidate by Karl Rove, then twenty-nine and working for Bill Clements, Texas' first Republican governor since 1873.​

Brown claims that the movement toward a two-party system in Texas has created occasional primary fights in both parties that are no longer so much philosophical but personality-driven. After the defeat of Governor Dolph Briscoe in the 1978 Democratic primary, Brown became a "Democrat for Clements" and soon switched to Republican allegiance. Brown said that the ideological differences between himself and Schwartz created "a great race on the issues." In 1982, however, state Representative Bill Blythe challenged Brown in the Senate primary for a four-year term. According to Brown, the two disagreed on few issues, and the campaign grew personal in nature, as Blythe tried to depict Brown as "either a crook or an atheist."[6]

Senate service

Brown served in the Senate for more than two decades and saw his party gain and maintain a majority of the thirty-one seats in the chamber. He successfully authored much legislation. His Brown-Lewis Water Management Plan, passed when Brown was the chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, addresses the financing and implementation of the state's overall water quality plan. Brown worked to meet the federal Clean Air Act standards, having authored the Texas Emission Reduction Plan. He worked to remove hazardous waste from his state and wrote legislation to protect landowners from unintended effects of the endangered species laws. He also wrote his state's Wetlands Protection Act.[2]

As a member of the Senate committees on Administration and Jurisprudence, Brown worked to pass the original state statute banning child pornography. He secured passage of the statute making the murder of a child under six automatically subject to the death penalty. Brown wrote the Crime Victims Bill of Rights and secured ways to protect jurors from interference by parties before the court. He wrote laws to register sex offenders.[2]

As a member of the Joint Interim Committee on the Family Code, Brown penned the law to extend the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act and sponsored legislation to strengthen the Health and Human Services Commission. He co-authored tort reform. He wrote the law establishing the Texas Aerospace Commission and the NASA cooperative education program through the Johnson Space Center in Houston.[2] In 1989, Brown was one of five senators chosen to serve as the President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate. ​

Consideration for lieutenant governor

In 1999, Brown was charged with sexual harassment by Tiffany Black, a young college student on his staff. Black said that Brown touched her breasts and buttocks and tried to kiss her during an impromptu golf lesson at his office in Lake Jackson. Thereafter, Brown delivered a letter of apology to Black, who left his staff after the incident. Brown said that he would seek counseling if needed. No legal charges were filed.[7] Brown had paid an attorney $1,150 to represent him, having legally used campaign funds to do so.[8]

Late in 2000, when Rick Perry succeeded to the governorship with the election of George W. Bush as President of the United States, Brown was briefly considered as a compromise choice within the Texas Senate to succeed Perry as lieutenant governor for the two years remaining in the term. Brown said that he had passed up an opportunity to run for the United States House of Representatives to remain in the state Senate for two decades because the integrity of the chamber is important to him.[3]

The selection of Perry's successor as lieutenant governor ultimately fell upon Moderate Republican Bill Ratliff of Mt. Pleasant in east Texas, who defeated Republican colleague David Sibley, then of Waco, 16-15. Ratcliff did not seek election to the post in 2002, then won by David Dewhurst.[9]

Brown did not seek reelection in 2002; some voters in Fort Bend County had urged Brown to resign from the Senate after the Tiffany Black incident, but he still finished his term.[7] Instead, the District 17 seat passed in 2003 to the physician Kyle Janek, who defeated former Harris County Republican Chairman Gary Polland in the 2002 Republican primary. District 17 is now represented by the Republican Joan Huffman.​

Upon retirement from the Texas Senate in 2002, Brown established a lobbying practice in Austin, Texas, representing clients before the Texas Legislature and in Washington, D.C. In 2005, Brown was joined by his daughter, Jennifer Brown Emerson, an attorney, and they continue an active lobbying and legislative consulting practice in Austin Brown is or has been the chairman of the board of the The Capital of Texas Chapter of the Alzheimers Association. ​In addition to Jennifer Emerson, Brown is the father of Jay Patrick Brown and James "Jeb" Eugene Brown, Jr.​ His wife is the former Jill Ann Kerr (born 1945). He is a United Methodist.[2]


  1. Our Professional Team. Brown Consulting. Retrieved on March 24, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 An Inventory of Bill Files of Senator J. E. Buster Brown at the Texas State Archives, 1981–2001 (bulk 1999–2001). lib.utexas.edu. Retrieved on September 9, 2011; material no longer accessible.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Lieutenant Governor?: J. E. 'Buster' Brown," Amarillo Globe-News, December 16, 2000.
  4. Texas Attorney General. ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved on March 24, 2020.
  5. Texas Senate. lrl.state.tx.us. Retrieved on March 24, 2020.
  6. Morgan Smith (November 3, 2009). Primary Races Tend to Be Bloody. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved on March 24, 2020.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Sen. "Buster" Brown apologizes to woman," Amarillo Globe-News, September 16, 1999.
  8. "Texas Legislators to Retain Broad Access to Campaign Funds," Houston Chronicle, April 2, 2001.
  9. Terrence Stutz, "David Sibley wants to come back to Senate," Dallas Morning News, March 17, 2010.