Donald G. Brownlow – Major, United States Army

Donald Brownlow, 82; WWII vet taught history with a bang
By Sally A. Downey
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Donald Brownlow of Elverson, a decorated World War II veteran who taught history at the Haverford School for 55 years, died of heart failure Wednesday at home. Mr. Brownlow, who would have been 83 tomorrow, had spent the day teaching.

Every September, Mr. Brownlow shot a small cannon across the football field during the first session of his 20th-century European history class. “You can't appreciate the history of Europe in the 20th century,” he told his students, “if you don't know the smell of gunpowder.”

“Don taught the history he helped make,” said Joe Cox, Haverford's headmaster. “He was able to nurture learning in almost every boy. He taught with passion and compassion.”

Mr. Brownlow was an enthusiastic booster of Haverford sports teams, Cox said, and regularly attended pep rallies. Five years ago, Mr. Brownlow jumped up and led the “Give me an H!” cheer when Haverford celebrated the 50th anniversary of his teaching career.

He wrote 10 books on military history.

A native of Germantown, Mr. Brownlow graduated from Tredyffrin-Easttown High School and attended the University of Pennsylvania for a year before enlisting in the Army during World War II. His intelligence detachment landed on Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion and later participated in the Battle of the Bulge. During the battle in the Ardennes, SS troops captured him and two other members of his unit, but the men escaped.

“I guess I was a POW for about 48 hours,” he told a reporter in 2004.

Mr. Brownlow earned a Purple Heart after a shell from a German tank wounded him, and he earned a Bronze Star for finding and deactivating a minefield. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre from the French government.

After his discharge, he returned to Penn to earn a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in history.

He joined the Haverford School in 1951. In the summer, he often led students on tours of Europe. Tom Chase, a Haverford graduate, said that when he took the tour in the 1950s, Mr. Brownlow arranged a visit in Germany with Admiral Karl Doenitz, who directed the German U-boat campaign during World War II.

In 2004, Mr. Brownlow went to France for the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.

Since 1987, he had been married to Sandy Dobbs Brownlow. The couple met in the 1970s when Mr. Brownlow was doing magic tricks at children's parties and social events, and she became his assistant. They have a daughter, Priscilla.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by a son, Douglas; another daughter, Pamela Bakal; and five grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son Kendall and his former wife, Louise Brownlow.

A memorial service will be held at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Centennial Hall, the Haverford School, 450 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, Pennsylvania 19041. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery on 25 January 2006.

Memorial donations may be made to the Donald G. Brownlow Memorial Scholarship in care of the school's development office.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 01/17/1923
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/11/2006

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