Nancy Cofield Brown, the first Black woman to head a Greenwich Town Department, died on March 11, 2021 at Bridgeport Hospital. She was 88. She died from complications with lymphoma.
Mrs. Brown lived in Greenwich 65 years. Nancy and her husband, David Brown, settled in Greenwich where he had grown up right after they both graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. A year later she gave birth to their first son, David, who was followed by Stephen and Philip. Her sons all survive her, as well as her three grandchildren, Ella and Dean Brown and Sandra Adest. Nancy’s first grandchild, Justin Scott Brown died in 2005 in a local car accident. Her husband David died in 2006. She was great grandmother to Gabriel, Nathan and Jacob Adest.
While Mrs. Brown raised her sons she worked as a seamstress, constructing ball gowns and wedding dresses for community members’ special occasions. She took part in her children’s education by serving as a Trustee of the Whitby School, chairing the Julian Curtis School PTA and remained involved all the way to serving as a Trustee of Hartwick College where her son Phil attended.
Her involvement in the community deepened with her work on the Board of the Family Centers of Greenwich. In 1969 she helped found the Urban League of Southwestern Fairfield County and was elected an RTM member in 1971. In 1976 she became Director of the First Woman’s Bank & Trust, a pioneering bank for woman, granting loans regardless of sex or marital status and counseling women about building credit and taking loans.
By 1978 Mrs. Brown became the Director of Community Development for the Town of Greenwich, the first Black woman to head a Town Department and held that position for almost thirty years. By now her contribution to the community had become legion with her position as Director of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, Chair of that same institution’s Mortgage Committee, Trustee of Greenwich Hospital and Chair of its Community Advisory Committee. Later in her life she became passionate about helping young girls of color with opportunities through the Women & Girl’s Advisory Council.
Her contributions to the community did not go unnoticed. She was named Woman of the Year by the Greenwich Women Civic Club in 1987. Mrs. Brown was granted the CT State’s Office of the Treasurer Contributions to the Community Award in 2005 and the Greenwich Bar Association Liberty Bell Award in 2004. In 2014 the YWCA of Greenwich awarded her their Spirit Award.
As late as 2019 Mrs. Brown was honored by the Greenwich Democrats with their Lifetime Achievement Award. It is said that Mrs. Brown kept the Democratic Party’s heart beating in her living room.
Mrs. Brown returned to her hometown in 1963 to take part in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington and hear his great speech. An invitation to her Martin Luther King Day celebrations was coveted because they featured her husband’s jazz trio and fine food. She always was a social activist. She helped to establish the first Affirmative Action Plan for the Town of Greenwich with Bob Brown, President of the Greenwich branch of the NAACP.
She campaigned for both Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, both of whom she personally met. She was in the vanguard of politics in Fairfield and the State and worked in her quiet, confident way to affect the politics of her time. She was the gentle giant of Greenwich and the people who knew her, loved her.
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