And the Award for Most Ambitious goes to: Tony Brown!

Shannon Chance and Tony Brown incognito.

Shannon Chance and Tony Brown incognito.

My friend Tony Brown is always, always, always into something new.

He orders and reads dozens of books each month and he knows all the latest news. Every time I talk with him he’s discovered more about his favorite topics — and he has also almost always launched a major new initiative to boot.

This month’s initiative is a new online video library that gives (okay, sells) people access to 40 years worth of his TV shows. It should be up and running any time now.

To put it simply: Tony is a journalist, producer, and writer. He hosted PBS’s longest-running series, Tony Brown’s Journal. He even organized the first event where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech. That happened in Detroit.

Tony Brown at his news desk.

Tony Brown at his news desk.

Since I’ve been noting superlatives lately I have to say that, without doubt, Tony is the most ambitious and most entrepreneurial person I know. He’ll soon be turning 80, but he’s energetic, witty, and always on the go. He lives as if there’s not a moment left to spare.

And he questions everything.

I met Tony on graduation day the year he joined Hampton University’s faculty. He was the new Dean of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications. His keen sense of intellect had me hooked from the get-go and I made the effort to spend more time with him. It made good sense to me:  he was a dean and I was studying higher education administration. I wanted to know what begin a dean was like. I learned about that and much more. I considered Tony a mentor then and I still do to this day.

Tony had been living in NYC since 1970 and hadn’t owned a car since then, so I offered him a ride home once a week or so. On the way, I’d hear his take on life and find out what new things he’d discovered about health and/or the history of world religions. We’d stop for groceries and I’d learn more about healthy eating.

The cover of Tony's book What Mama Taught Me.

The cover of Tony’s book What Mama Taught Me.

A 1998 interview with Tony, printed in the Los Angeles Times under the title Vitamins Are TV Host’s Secret Weapon, provides a sense of our regular conversation. His knowledge of health has expanded since that article was written.

I don’t get to drive Tony any more. He bought his own fancy new wheels — a sports car even faster than mine. But I do remember with fondness driving Tony to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get him a learner’s permit for driving. He was miffed he’d had to study! After all, he knew how to drive….

Over the years, Tony has written many insightful books. My favorite of them is What Mama Taught Me: The Seven Core Values of Life. If you’re in the market for an interesting take on American history — an inspirational lift — I highly recommend this “self-help” book. After all, it’s written by someone who is undeniably healthy, wealthy, and wise.

The Crab Shack on Virginia's James River.

The Crab Shack on Virginia’s James River, where we love to go for fish.

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