Thomas Watson Brown, 73, a prominent Georgian who combined Old South roots with a wide-ranging philanthropic streak, died Saturday of complications from diabetes at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. His death was confirmed by former Gov. Roy Barnes.
The Harvard-educated Brown lived in an antebellum home in Marietta, Ga., that flew the Confederate flag, but he was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center's community service award for peace and justice. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, presented the award to Brown in 1987 for his contributions to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.
Brown was a staunch defender of his great-grandfather, Thomas E. Watson, a publisher and U.S. senator. Many still blame Watson for whipping up anti-Semitism that led to the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, who had been convicted of killing 13-year-old Mary Phagan two years earlier. Watson's great-grandson was convinced by extensive research that Frank was not lynched because he was Jewish but because the populace was outraged that his sentence was commuted by the governor, who had been bribed.
The Watson-Brown Foundation that Brown established awards millions of dollars in scholarships and is committed to historic preservation.