Born in Berlin, Wisconsin in 1890, the son of a Scottish stone cutter, Donald L. Brown was an early innovator of aviation, having been involved with the development and building of aircraft engines in aviation’s early years.
Although he was a hard worker, it took Brown some time to find his calling. As a young man, he worked an assortment of jobs, including newspaper carrier, journalist, store clerk, assembly worker and steel worker. After attending Northwestern University, he started his engine development career as head of engine assembly at the Simplex Automobile Co., which later evolved into the Wright-Martin Aircraft Corp. He later became a factory manager for Wright Aeronautical Corp. (formerly Wright-Martin Aircraft).
Brown worked his way through various positions within aviation and became a co-founder and also President of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Co. In 1934 he became the first President of United Aircraft Corp. Under his leadership the company became one of the world’s largest producers of airplanes, engines and propellers. He worked closely with the U. S. military in the production of power plants for airplanes doing much to maintain the preeminence of American aviation.
He was also very involved in his community (Hartford Conn.) with various boards, commissions and directorships. He was a member of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, the Society of Automotive Engineers, and the Connecticut Aeronautical Development Commission.
It was stated at his funeral that two outstanding characteristics dominated his every act. One was his passion for orderliness, the other his deep and abiding interest in the welfare of his associates and employees. He was always tolerant of the other man’s views, and always ready to listen.