Bachman Brown, Kannapolis’ first mayor, remembered

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 27, 2014

KANNAPOLIS — Bachman Brown, who served as the first mayor for the city of Kannapolis, died Sunday evening. He was 88.
Brown was instrumental in the city’s incorporation, shepherding a bill through the General Assembly, said Gene McCombs, who served with Brown as Kannapolis’ first city manager.
“He’s sort of the father of our city,” McCombs said Tuesday morning.
“Every American thinks of George Washington as the perfect president,” Tom Dayvault said Tuesday morning. “Bachman Brown was the perfect first mayor of Kannapolis.”
Dayvault and Brown worked together closely as Dayvault led the Kannapolis Chamber of Commerce.
“He is my personal role model of a true servant,” said Dayvault, who now lives in High Point. “It was never about him. It was always about Kannapolis.
“Kannapolis has lost perhaps the greatest leader it will ever have,” Dayvault continued, his voice breaking. “To me, I lost a best friend.”
Brown served on the city’s provisional council, which met for the first time on Dec. 11, 1984, in the library of his congregation, Kimball Lutheran Church. He served as mayor until 1993.
“The council had no personal agendas,” McCombs said. “They had the interest of the city and people at heart. They wanted to get everything done.”
In the city’s first 10 years, Brown told the Post in 2009, city leaders planned to provide four services: police protection, street lights, garbage service, and land-use planning and zoning. Recreation was soon added at the behest of citizens, thanks to a partnership with the YMCA.
“It was exciting because we were beginning something new,” Brown told the Post. “But we found out that things moved a lot faster than we thought.”
Leaders had to start from scratch as far as enacting sign ordinances and subdivision ordinances, McCombs said. Additionally, the council had to tackle what to do with an astounding 156 mobile home parks, and set about cleaning up the city. There was also consolidation of the city’s sanitary districts, as well as its handful of fire departments.
When Cannon Mills decided sell its water system, the city bought it.
“Kannapolis realized, under Mayor Brown’s leadership, that if we’re gonna have any control over the city, we had to buy it,” McCombs said.
Through it all, McCombs said, Brown provided steady guidance. His expertise as a lawyer, McCombs said, was invaluable. “He was a prince of a man to work with.”
McCombs said Brown was never a man who called attention to himself. “He was a man of good character. He’s certainly a hero in my view. It was a pleasure and honor to work with him and know him.”
Brown was a longtime member of Kimball. He and his wife, Mabel, were married in 1953, and joined the congregation four years later. Brown was already teaching a Sunday School class there, but did not want to move his membership until his father retired as pastor of Lutheran Chapel Church, he told Larry Witmer in a 2009 interview for the N.C. Synod archives.
Brown was active with the synod beginning in the 1950s. He served on the committee which helped form what is today Lutheran Services Carolinas, and served on synod council a number of times. He also served as its legal advisor.
At Kimball, Brown was a longtime Sunday School teacher, and served as congregation president and on its church council. He chaired at least five committees to call a new pastor.
A bust of Brown was unveiled in 2009 during the city’s 25th anniversary celebration. It is on display at the train station on Main Street, where the city council meets twice a month.
Brown and his wife have two children, Robert and Sarah, and four grandsons.
His complete obituary is found on page 4A.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.