Former Ohio Senator Edna Brown’s Astounding Life and Legacy

Senator Edna Brown

By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor

“I’m not driven by politics. It doesn’t matter to me if an issue is not necessarily popular, as long as the issue is good for the community and good for people,” Edna Brown told The Sojourner’s Truth back in March 2003, a year after she had been appointed to fill the Ohio House of Representatives seat vacated by her predecessor, Jack Ford.

Brown passed away on Saturday, January 1 after a life spent in the service of others – a life celebrated many times by a variety of celebrants.

Former Ohio State Senator Edna Brown was born in 1940 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and moved to Toledo in 1952. She graduated from the former Macomber-Whitney High School and attended Mary Manse College before beginning a 32-year career with the City of Toledo, concluding that service in the City Council’s clerk’s office.

She ran for City Council in 1993 while noting that “by working with the City Council clerks’ office, I know the procedures of city government, so I won’t have to go in there and learn how to be a council member.”

Active always in the community, Brown was a key force in the founding of the Greater Toledo Urban League, was past chair of the Administration Board of Braden United Methodist Church and a charter member of the Executive Women’s Golf Association, to name just a few of her activities.

In 2002, Brown was appointed to serve in the House of Representatives, eventually rising to minority whip, the number 3 post in the Democratic Party leadership. She was re-elected by her constituents three times.

During her tenure in the House, Representative Brown pushed through the passage of Shynerra’s Law, which gave juvenile courts power to enforce protection orders defending one minor from another when one has been accused of crimes.

The law was named for Shynerra Grant, a 17-year-old Toledoans killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2005.

In 2011, Rep. Brown became Senator Brown, the first African-American elected to represent Toledo in the Senate. She would eventually become minority whip of that body.

In 2015, Senator Brown was worn in as a State Director with Women In Government at the 21st Annual State Directors’ and 11th Biennial First Term Legislators’ Conference in St. Petersburg, FL. She had been elected to that position by her fellow state legislative colleagues. Women In Government is a national, non-partisan organization of state legislators providing leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums and educational resources.

When Senator Brown retired in 2018 after 57 years of service to this community, she was feted at The Toledo Club by a host of friends. Almost 200 individuals attended the celebration, including current and past mayors, other elected officials and her Democratic colleagues who organized the event.

“Senator Brown is a woman that I respect,” said Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz at the time. “She is an honest and sincere public servant and person. Senator Brown works hard to get the job done. Her legislation impacts and advocates against abuse issues.”

Her impact went far beyond her legislative accomplishments. In 2016, for example, Deborah Barnett launched a plan that Brown conceived called “100 Women” in which Barnett organizes influential women in the community to lend their support to various causes.

Senator Brown has received the following awards and honors over the course of her public service career: African American Legacy Project 2010 legion, Tribute to Rose 2006 celebration, Council of State Governments Health Chair 2013, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Toledo Chapter political achievement award, Oscar Griffin Award 2012, YWCA 2007 Milestones for achievement in government, Braden UMC award, Josh Project Lifetime Lifesaver Award, Ohio State of Representative resolution 2010, Outstanding Service Award presented by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc 2002, Legislative Leadership Award from Action Ohio Coalition for Battered Women 2011, Northwest Ohio Black Media Association Impact Newsmaker 2007, Mt. Nebo Baptist Church Voices of Hope Outreach Ministry 2011, Jack Wolfe Memorial Award presented by Ohio Association of Election Officials and Secretary of State J Kenneth Blackwell 2006, and Toledo Excel 2011.

Edna Brown was preceded in death by her husband Willie and a daughter, Carol Wilson.

She is survived by three daughters: Linda Brown, Cathy Dadzie and Christine Daniels. She is also survived by 13 grandchildren and great grandchildren along with two brothers and three sisters.