Ernest Brown was many things to Augusta. He was one its first black police officers. He was a confidant and bodyguard of the city's "Godfather of Soul." And he was renowned for his great sausage dogs and bread pudding.
Mr. Brown, 77, died Thursday in his home. On Saturday, his family took time to share their memories of the man who was known to many as "Mr. B."
In the early 1940s, Mr. Brown opened his restaurant, the Ebony, at Ninth Street and Laney Walker Boulevard. It was at the Ebony that his great sausage dogs and bread puddings became popular.
It was also where Mr. Brown met Augusta's famous soul singer James Brown. The musician was shining shoes outside the restaurant, Ernest Brown's daughter Cassandra Brinson said.
"He tried to do everything he could to keep James out of the trouble," Mrs. Brinson said jokingly over the phone.
Later, when the Godfather's career brought him fame, Mr. Brown served as his bodyguard. He was close to James Brown's family and regularly took his elderly father for Sunday drives, Mrs. Brinson said.
Shortly before closing the Ebony, Mr. Brown was sworn in as a police officer in Augusta in the early 1950s. He joined the force with his good friend Eddie Oliver, family members said.
Members of both men's families say the two men were Augusta's first black police officers.
Mr. Brown's daughter Ernestine Wright said her father was kindhearted. "He didn't hardly speak above a whisper," she said. "He didn't really like to make arrests."
Rather than go hard on somebody, he'd try to help them out, sparing them the hardship that comes with jail time, she said.
Yet he was known to be tough. He was a featherweight boxer and once fought in Madison Square Garden, Mrs. Wright said. Folks around Ninth Street and Laney Walker Boulevard still talk about the time Mr. Brown had to lay down the law with a gentleman who got out of line.
"(My dad) hit him one time, and he went from one side of Ninth Street to the other," Mrs. Wright said.
Years after closing the Ebony, Mr. Brown opened the Dew Drop Inn, also along Laney Walker Boulevard. He followed that with Mr. B's restaurant at Ninth Street near Walton Way. That restaurant stayed open from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, family members said.
All of his restaurants were known for his signature sausage dogs and bread pudding.
"Somebody came to my house today and said those were the best sausage dogs they ever had in their life," Mrs. Brinson said.
Mr. B's would likely be open today if family members hadn't urged Mr. Brown to retire. They wanted to take care of him, Mrs. Brinson said. She fed him at least three times a week at her restaurant, Cafe 209. She got the entrepreneur gene from her father, she said.
"He was just the kind of person that everybody in town knew."
Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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