James “Jim” Brown: a life of leadership and legacy

By Elby Adamson, contributing writer

Jim Brown was a well-known Clay Center businessman. His involvement first as an employee and later as a majority owner of Key Milling put him in contact with both the agricultural and business interests of the Clay County area. 

Jim’s leadership extended from business and community service to his involvement with church activities and his alma mater Kansas State University. 

So, it is no surprise that when Jim and his wife Carol discussed what sort of memorial they would create upon his passing, they agreed to support the establishment of a dialysis unit at the Clay County Medical Center (CCMC).

“This is a wonderful community and we’ve done amazing things, but there are still wonderful things to be done,” said Jim’s wife Carol.

“One of those things is the need for a dialysis unit. When our son Mike would come home for holidays, it was difficult to find a chair in a dialysis unit semi close and sometimes he couldn’t stay for a visit for as long as he would have liked because he needed to be where he could get dialysis, “said Carol.

“People needing a dialysis unit may have to travel an hour or more to a unit, spend three for treatment and have another hour to get home. They must have a driver. It is an exhausting experience. 

“A dialysis unit would be a great blessing not just for Clay Center but for the surrounding community,” Carol said.

The Brown family has identified the Clay County Hospital Foundation as the recipient of memorial fund giving for Jim.

A dialysis unit isn’t an easy thing to establish at CCMC, but it is the kind   of task that the late Jim Brown would have undertaken to support as a way of putting his faith in Christ and concern for others into action.

Austin Gillard, CEO of CCMC, explained the challenges of establishing a dialysis unit at CCMC.

“A dialysis unit needs to have a Nephrologist overseeing the operations. CCMC does not employ a Nephrologist. The dialysis unit must be certified with CMS. This certification process can take up to 12 months. Meaning, the dialysis unit could only treat patients that have commercial insurance, or those who are willing to be billed private pay during this certification timeframe,” Gillard said. 

But based on discussions with Carol Brown and others, 

“Clay County Medical Center (CCMC) would like to thank Carol Brown for her commitment of a future dialysis unit at CCMC. Jim and Carol have been loyal supporters of CCMC for decades,” said Gillard.

On August 3, Austin Gillard and Dr. John Kelley met with Dr. Bedros, Nephrologist, about the possibility of a dialysis unit at CCMC. Dr. Bedros was very supportive and believes the volume to support a dialysis unit is possible. 

“To build a dialysis unit, it will cost around $1 million. CCMC will continue to explore dialysis options for our patients in the months ahead,” said Gillard.

 In addition to the proposed dialysis project, Jim Brown’s legacy and leadership are evident in his service to others in civic, educational, and spiritual realms.

Clay Center Mayor James Thatcher said, “Jim Brown was a member of the Governing Body of the City of Clay Center since May of 2010 until his untimely death in July of 2021.  He served on many committees, most notably the Administrative Committee in which he was chairman for a number of years.  Jim also served as Council President at different times during his tenure.  He put in many hours of his own time in helping develop many projects as well as advice on the financial aspects of city operations.

“Jim was looked up to by his peers on the Council as well as city staff.  He was always willing to share his expertise and solution skills without hesitation.  He would even throw in a story or two about his travels and business experiences. 

“His untimely death will leave a great void not only on the Governing Body but the community as well.  He had a “can do” attitude and only wanted what was best to help Clay Center prosper, attract families and businesses as well. I am grateful for Jim’s guidance, advice, and service to the people of Clay Center.  Jim will be greatly missed, and we will make sure his vision is continued,” said Mayor Thatcher.

Kansas State University released the following statement regarding Jim’s support and involvement: “Jim Brown was a well-known and well-respected alumnus of Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture.  He earned his feed Science and management degree in 1959 from the Grain Science and Industry Department. Jim was an inaugural member of the College of Agriculture Dean’s Advisory board, serving on the board continuously since 2004. Jim and his wife, Carol, gave generously across the university, including establishing a professorship in feed science. His knowledge, skill, experience and happy, positive attitude will be greatly missed.”   

As a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Jim served as a Eucharistic Minister, Vestry Member, Lay Reader, and the Altar Guild.  Both he and Carol were deeply involved in the church’s four programs to provide food for those in need.

Jim expressed his faith through actions, not words, said Carol, his wife of more than 60 years.  

Gifts in memory of Jim Brown can be made to the Clay County Hospital Foundation in c/o Neill-Schwensen-Rook Funeral Home or sent to the Clay County Hospital Foundation in care of CCMC 617 Liberty St. Clay Center, KS 67432