Get To Know Sherman Brown Jr.
Sherman Brown Jr. will tell you as directly as the doctors told him. He has incurable cancer.
“I didn’t like what they said to me, but we’re gonna run it ’til there’s nothing left,” he says. “I’m a year and one week out, and I’m still here, and I’m still enjoying every minute.”
As Brown tells it, his life has been nothing remarkable. He’s just the guy who owns Lindsey Rentals, a party and equipment rental store on Sexton Road where he started working 48 years ago this May. His first job there at the end of his junior year in high school was to keep the Lawn-Boy mowers clean, blades sharpened. In 1970, when he went into the military reserves, Lindsey held Sherman’s job open until he returned. Ten years later, Lindsey made it possible for Brown, with his then-partner, Billy Spry, to buy out the company that’s morphed over the decades into “a bar without the alcohol,” he says. “Some of the stories that have been told … Some of the things people will share with you. Sometimes, it’s just needing to come in for a good laugh, hear a good story, or get a smile or to make sure that somebody cares.”
Brown has lost count of the young men he’s mentored through the years, but the community hasn’t — honoring him this past February with the Youth Empowerment Zone’s Black Men Rock 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award.
When they came by to tell him, Brown thought they were lost or crazy: “What do I deserve an award for? Where’d you get your information from?” he asked. “But that’s the one thing about cancer — it gives you a chance to find out who you are and what you’ve done in your life.”
As soon as word got out about Brown’s relapse, support poured in from a generation or two of Columbians who know Brown as a generous mentor and trusted confidant.
“So many kids who’ve worked for me and customers who’ve come through here: I look at what they’re doing with their lives — doctors, people who’ve gone on to the military, real estate, lawyers, business owners, you name it, who’ve gone on to bigger and better places. Well, it’s overwhelming to feel that you’re loved like that.”
Along with his wife, Vickie, their son and two daughters, and 12 grandchildren, Brown counts everyone at Lindsey as part of his extended family.
A Columbian through and through, Brown grew up with his five sisters and brother on property where Joe Machens Nissan now stands, playing on the mountains of sand that became part of the I-70 roadbed.
His dad, Sherman Brown, worked at Stephens College for more than 40 years, along with bartending and side jobs. His mom, Madge, cleaned at radio station KFRU.
“Anybody who knew my mother — white, black, green — first question she’d ask you when you opened the door, ‘Are you hungry? Let’s sit down and have something to eat.’ It was like a swinging door. That’s why I am who I am. Those two,” he says, pointing to his parents’ pictures on his office wall.
Brown says he tries hard to carry on that spirit — bridging the gaps and bringing people closer, as one customer explains Brown’s impact.
“My parents are the ones who taught me that giving is a whole lot better than receiving,” Brown says. “If there’s one thing, I hope that people see me as trying to do the right thing.”