Oral Lee Brown
To help a child, give him a job; to free a child, give him an education. I want all of our children to be free.
I feel the students must be given the financial assistance and inspiration to continue their education. If these children become successful, then my life will have been a success. After this, I will look forward to helping others.
Oral Lee Brown, founder of the Oral Lee Brown Foundation in Oakland, California, is accustomed to hard work and challenges, but her faith has helped her climb the ladder of success.
Ms. Brown was born into poverty in the Mississippi Delta. As a young woman, she came to California and began a new life by working during the day and attending school at night. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of San Francisco while she raised a family of three lovely daughters and held a managerial position at Blue Cross Insurance Company where she supervised 55 employees.
While in her mid-thirties, Oral had the confidence to change her profession and enter the field of real estate. After several years of working in the field, she obtained her broker's license and acquired the former Lowe Realty, which renamed Nationwide Realty/T.P.I. Corporation.
Owning her own real estate office in Oakland was not enough. Mrs. Brown purchased Cobbler's and became the Head Chef and Manager. She also embarked upon marketing her popular dessert, the Oral Lee Famous Peach Cobbler.
Mrs. Brown's difficult start in life and her religious faith has led her to believe in helping others and "giving something back" to the community. She is a member of the Harmony Missionary Baptist Church, the Oakland Community Housing Resource Board, the Oakland Board of Realtors, Associate Real Property Brokers and Cal-Park Association. Oral has also served as Commissioner for the Alameda County Assessment Appeal Board.
In 1987, Mrs. Brown made a tremendous commitment towards "giving something back". She adopted the entire first grade class at Brookfield Elementary School located in East Oakland. She deposited $10,000 into a trust account and created the Oral Lee Brown Foundation. She continues to deposit $10,000 each year into the Foundation's trust account, making a commitment to educate the students. The money will go towards the college tuition for each student. Not only is she supporting the children financially for their future education, but she meets with the parents on a regular basis and mentors the students. Mrs. Brown sponsors an annual Scholarship Gala and celebrates the achievements of the OLBF scholarship students each year. Of the original twenty-three students, nineteen graduated high school and completed college.
Her struggle and dream continues as she goes about expanding the group (phases) of students. She currently has six phases of students. Two of the groups (phase 1 and phase 2) have completed college. Phase 3 students are currently in their second semester of college.
Over the years, Mrs. Brown has received many awards, plaques and media coverage nationally and locally for her commitment to her adopted students. Recently, Mrs. Brown was named Woman of the Year for the year 2000 by Senator Don Peralta and Assembly member Audie Bock, was honored at the Black History Month Awards sponsored by Union Bank of California and KQED, was selected as among the "Ten Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area", the "Diamond of the Bay Award for Community Service" by the National Basketball Wives Association, "California Lottery Award", "The Pioneer Achievement Award" by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the "Humanitarian of The Year 2000" by the East Bay Agency for Children, and the "John Stanford Education Heroes Award", by the U.S. Department of Education. She has been featured in People, Glamour Magazine (3) times, Ebony and Essence magazines and seen on ABC Later Today, NBC Nightly News, Extra, CNN, Courage, and Channels 2, 4, 5, & 7.
Ms. Brown holds an Associate of Arts degree from Laney College, a Bachelor of Science from the University of San Francisco, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hawaii and an Honorary Doctorate from Columbia College, University of San Francisco and Merrick College.