Vault A45, Brown, Unit 2

Tomlin E. Brown
From a newspaper article with title, "ACLU to Honor Librarian Here,"
Atlanta Constitution (Thursday, Dec. 3, 1970)

EXTENT: 89 items (1 container)

ORGANIZATION AND ARRANGEMENT: Two series: I. DeKalb County Public Library patron rights incident, 1970; II. Other professional life, 1963-1983. Arrangement within series is chronological.

BIOGRAPHY: Tomlin E. Brown (later Coggan) was born April 9, 1914, in Fresno, California, the daughter of Hiram Wheeler Edwards, a physics professor at Berkeley, and his wife, Vena Marvella Tomlin Edwards.  Mrs. Brown resided in Concord Massachusetts from 1953 – 1961, with her then-husband E. Cary Brown, an economics professor at MIT. They later divorced. She served on the school board committee in Concord from 1958 to 1961, holding the position of Secretary. She also served on the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District Committee, 1960 – 1961. After leaving Concord, she worked as administrative secretary for Congressman Gillis W. Long of Louisiana.

In 1966 Mrs. Brown took the entrance exams for Emory Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Librarianship. She was later head librarian at the Avis G. Williams branch of the DeKalb County Public Library.  On June 1, 1970, an IRS agent visited the library and asked Ms. Brown if it would be possible to tag certain books as “militant and subversive” so that patrons who checked them out could be identified and tracked. Mrs. Brown resisted the proposal and informed the agent that she believed that any public library patron had the right to privacy regarding his or her choice of reading material. The incident was widely publicized and reported in many newspaper and magazine articles. Mrs. Brown appeared on the Today show and CBS news and was honored by the ACLU for her actions.

She had two daughters from her first marriage, Rebecca Brown Corwin and Gretchen Brown Rossman. Later in life Tomlin E. Brown moved to Saint Simons Island in Georgia. Her second husband was Letson Coggan. Mrs. Brown died February 27, 1994.

SCOPE AND CONTENT: The collection consists mainly of materials related to Mrs. Brown’s actions in July of 1970.  Newspaper, magazine and newsletter reports about her actions are filed in Series I. Series I also includes letters and postcards written to Mrs. Brown following her appearances on the CBS news and the Today show.  Although the overwhelming majority are positive, the letters vary in the reactions expressed, ranging from congratulatory to outraged, and the writers include both private citizens and organizations. Many letters include brief notes added by Mrs. Brown. Series I also contains Mrs. Brown’s personal accounts of the incident and includes notes for a speech about it, possibly delivered at the ACLU’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner in 1970 where she was honored, along with the actress Jane Fonda, with the organization’s annual civil liberties award. Materials related to Ms. Brown’s earlier life, including a note of thanks for her service as secretary from Congressman Gillis W. Long and her qualifying exam results at Emory are in Series II. This series also includes a 1983 letter written to Mrs. Brown from Frances O’ Brien of the Blue River Library in Oregon, acknowledging Mrs. Brown’s letter of support written after seeing a television report about the Blue River Library.

SOURCE OF ACQUISITION: Gift of Rebecca B. Corwin, 18 July 2010.

NOTES /COMMENTS: Accessioned July 2010; AMC 187.

PROCESSED BY: RR; finding aid completed 21 October 21, 2010.

Container List

SERIES I. DeKalb County Public Library patron rights incident, 1970:
Subseries A. Publicity, July 1970-December 1970:
Folder 1:
-- South Today:  A Digest of Southern Affairs, Vol. 2, Special Edition, 1970 July 9 (two copies).
-- Newsweek, 1970 July 9. Article “The Assault on Privacy” pp 15- 17, 19-20.
-- The Nor’easter: Newsletter of the North Suburban Library System, Morton Grove, Illinios ,Vol. 3, No, 12, 1970 December. Article “DeKalb Library System Meets the Internal Revenue Service,” last two pages.

Folder 2:
-- Clippings July 1970 – December 1970, plus undated.

Subseries B. Correspondence to Tomlin E. Brown, July 1970 – August 1970, plus undated:
Folder 3:
-- From Sandra Sisson Batsel, Vienna, Virginia, in appreciation of Brown’s “courage and concern for our rights.” 1970 July 9.
-- From Rebecca B. Corwin, Somerville, Massachusetts, telegram offering congratulations. 1970 July 9.
-- From Cynthia Day and Daniel Roberts, East Hartford, Connecticut—“We simply want to thank you.” 1970 July 9.
-- From Margaret L. Eberbach, Assistant Professor of Humanities, York College of the City of New York— “Your comments . . . have greatly strengthened my faith in the possibility of a Democratic United States for the future.” 1970 July 9.
-- From Sarah Hall Goodwin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, expressing thanks. 1970 July 10.
-- From Ron Kedzierski, NAHB Research Foundation, Rockville, Maryland— “I am with you all the way.” 1970 July 9.
-- From R. Lafayette, Huntington Avenue YMCA, Boston, Massachusetts, expressing thanks. 1970 July 9.
-- From Mrs. Robert G. Layer, Carbondale, Illinois— “Thank you very much for being true Americans.”1970 July 9.
-- From H. C. Mason, Tyler, Texas— “Thank you so very, very much.” 1970 July 9.
-- From Amy V. Reynolds, Ogunquit, Maine— “God bless a very brave woman!” 1970 July 9.
-- From Eloise Skewes, Staten Island, New York, expressing thanks. 1970 July 9.
-- From Kathie Wood, Sturbridge, Massachusetts— “Thank you.”1970 July 9 [?].

Folder 4:
-- From Dick Bedell, Irving, Texas— “Shame on you, Mrs. Brown.” 1970 July 10.
-- From “A Bostonian,” Boston, Massachusetts, expressing strong displeasure. 1970 July 10.
-- From Helen Thomson Brown, Henrietta, New York— “Good for you!” 1970 July 10.
-- From Richard and Priscilla DeLay, Atlanta, Georgia, expressing gratitude. 1970 July 10.
-- From W. A. Dutton, Sioux City, Iowa— “Which is more important – to ‘cover up’ for anarchists or to protect the public?” 1970 July 10.
-- From M. L. Emerman, Little Switzerland, North Carolina— “We applaud your actions.” 1970 July 10.
-- From Mrs. Donald Fanta, Columbus, Ohio— “Thank heavens for people like you!” 1970 July 10.
-- From Rev. Leonard Foley, Friarhurst Retreat House, Cincinnati, Ohio— “God bless you!” 1970 July 10.
-- From Stanton Hager, Ovid, New York— “You were wonderful!” 1970 July 10.
-- From Valerie Heath, Costa Mesa, California­— “Thank you for the stand you took.” 1970 July 10.
-- From A. Peter Hollis, Wilson, North Carolina— “Please accept my admiration.” 1970 July 10.
-- From Helen Keyser, Chenley, Washington— “Please accept my personal thanks.” 1970 July 10.
-- From Bradley Leonard, Flint Public Library, Flint, Michigan— “I thoroughly share your views.” 1970 July 10.
-- From Mrs. Timothy Lingg, Springfield, Pennsylvania, expressing gratitude. 1970 July 10.
-- From Mrs. R.W.Loften, Hiawassee, Georgia— “Congratulations on your stand!” 1970 July 10­­.
-- From Virginia Martinat, Lansing, Michigan, offering congratulations. 1970 July 10.
-- From Mary Miller, Rochester, Vermont— “Why don’t more women like you speak up?” 1970 July 10.
-- From Mrs. H. B. Montgomery, Burbank, California— “Evidently you do not know about fire bombs.” 1970 July 10.
-- From Mrs. Doris L. Murray, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin— “I admire you very much.” 1970 July 10.
-- From Mrs. Paul X. O’Connor, Fitchburg, Massachusetts—“Bravo! Bravo!”  1970 July 10.
-- From Sam Papowsky, Woodland Hills, California— “Please accept my congratulations.” 1970 July 10.
-- From H. Talbot Pearson, New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, Manchester, New Hampshire, to Charles Morgan, Director, ACLU, sending congratulations to Mrs. Brown.  1970 July 10.
-- From Elaine Schiller, Bryan, Texas— “Well done!”  1970 July 10.
-- From Scott Schubach, M.D., Los Angeles, California— “I send you my admiration.” 1970 July 10.
-- From Mrs. Hazel Sokolove, Takoma Park, Maryland— “Could it really be ‘our’ Tom?” 1970 July 10.
-- From John Warren Stewig, Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana— “Thank you for taking such a stand.” 1970 July 10.
-- From Burt Wilson,The Revitalization Corps, Watts, California— “Please be assured you have many people who share your view.” 1970 July 10.
-- From John B. Wilson, Durham, North Carolina—“You were magnificent.”1970 July 10.

Folder 5:
-- From Betty Ball, Reid H. Cofer Library, Tucker, Georgia— “Bless you!” 1970 July 11.
-- From Marshall Ballou, Somerville, Massachusetts— “I was impressed and proud.” 1970 July 11.
-- From Ronald M. Griffith, Maple Shade, New Jersey—“I wish to commend your action.” 1970, July 11.
-- From Mrs. Phyllis Hodes, Detroit, Michigan—“Thank you, Mrs. Brown, for serving our country.” 1970 July 11.
-- From David Wood, San Francisco, California—“I commend you highly.” 1970 July 11.
-- From Anonymous, Anderson, Indiana—“Your thinking is entirely. . .WRONG.” 1970 July 12.
-- From Anxious, Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts— “You don’t sound like a southerner to me.”1970 July 12.
-- From Edna P. Legg, Baltimore, Maryland— “Three cheers for you.” 1970 July 12.
-- From Zoe Perkins, Santa Maria, California—“May I congratulate you.” 1970 July 12.
-- From J. Shufro, Austin, Texas, in appreciation of Mrs. Brown’s “unequivocal defense against…thought control.” 1970 July 12.
-- From Michael Arnold, Roslindale, Massachusetts—“Thank you so much.” 1970 July 13.
-- From Charles Morgan, Director, and others, American Civil Liberties Union, Atlanta, Georgia—“You are appreciated.”1970 July 15.
-- From Roger Johnson, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia, expressing approval. 1970 July 17.
-- From Frances M. Johnson, Canaan, New York—“Congratulations to you on your stand!” 1970 July 18.
-- From Warren D. Braun, Alderman 16th Ward, Milwaukee, Wisconsin— “Your stand encouraged me.” 1970 July 22.
-- From Atlanta Public Library, Atlanta, Georgia.  Envelope unmatched with letter [?] 1970 July 24.
-- From Lewis Brown, Landmark Motor Hotel, Hollywood, California—“Bravo!” 1970 July 25.
-- From Thomas E. Lippert, Chairman, Librarians’ Guild, Los Angeles, California, expressing support and approval. 1970 July 30.
-- From Cherie Moore, CBS News, New York, New York. Note accompanying enclosed letter (enclosure not present). 1970 August 3.
-- From Mrs. Aaron Henry Passow, Englewood, New Jersey—“Thank you for your courage and true patriotism.” Undated
-- From Dr. Melvin Stavn, St. Paul, Minnesota, commending Mrs. Brown’s actions.  Undated.
-- Unsigned note— “Your attitude about subversive books is great. ”Undated.
-- Envelope unmatched to letter, unidentified and undated.

Subseries C. Personal Accounts, July 1970 – November 1970, plus undated:
Folder 6:
-- Account of incident written by Tomlin E. Brown, 1970 July 1.
-- Letter from Tomlin E. Brown to Dean Venable Lawson, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. Contains account of incident. 1970 July 2.
-- Letter from Tomlin E. Brown to Louise Trotti, Director, Decatur-DeKalb Regional Library and Mrs. John Hale, Assistant Director. Contains statement of incident. 1970 July 2.
-- Letter from Tomlin E. Brown to Louise Trotti. Contains statement of incident. 1970 November 11.
-- Notes for speech, possibly delivered at ACLU’s Annual Bill of Rights Dinner in 1970. Undated.


SERIES II. Other professional life, August 1963 – September 1983:
Folder 7:
-- Letter from Gillis W. Long, Member of Congress, 8th District, Louisiana to  Tomlin E. Brown, 1963 August 8, thanking Mrs. Brown for her service as Administrative Secretary.
-- Notice of Results for Tomlin E. Brown’s Emory Qualifying Examination for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, department of Librarianship.  1966 May 23.
-- Letter from Frances O’ Brien of Blue River Library, Blue River, Oregon, thanking Mrs. Coggan (formerly Brown) for her letter in response to the Blue River Library’s appearance on television. 1983 September 5.

c2010 Concord Free Public Library, Concord, Mass.
Not to be reproduced in any form without permission of the Curator of the William Munroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library.


Back to Finding Aids Page

Back to Special Collections homepage


Mounted 24 October 2010.    rcwh.