Raleigh, N.C. — Rep. Larry Brown, R-Forsyth, died of a heart attack Thursday morning, according to his legislative colleagues and a spokesman for his family.
He was 69 and was married with two stepchildren.
"He had a long an productive career in state and local government," said Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, the House majority leader. Stam said Brown had attended a public meeting on education this past Friday and that news of his death came as a shock. "He was focused on helping people, that was his thing, trying to help his constituents. He was a very determined guy," Stam said.
In particular, Brown focused on annexation matters in the General Assembly, he said. In the past two years, lawmakers passed measures limiting the ability of cities to annex new territory into their municipal boundaries. A measure Brown authored limited when a city could bring territory it owned into its own corporate boundaries.
House Speaker Thom Tillis said he was "shocked and saddened" to learn of Brown's death. "He was an accomplished man who loved public service and cared deeply for his state. He developed a reputation for investing his time and energy into the House of Representatives, and his input was sought on many critical issues. His friendship will be missed by many in this state, and his family will be in my prayers as they endure this difficult period.”
Before serving in the legislature, Brown served as a Kernersville's alderman and mayor. He was retired from the U.S. Postal Service and worked as a real estate broker. Brown also served in the Navy from 1965-1968, according to his official N.C. General Assembly web page.
John Wolfe, Kernersville's town attorney and longtime friend of Brown, said the lawmaker lived part time in Pinehurst and was at his house there when he had a heart attack. Funeral arrangements had not been made as of noon on Thursday.
Wolfe said Brown became very interested in Taiwan in the 1990s when Kernersville hosted special Olympians from there who were training for games elsewhere in the state. Kernersville eventually became sister cities with Dashi, a city in Taiwan, a result of that interest, Wolfe said.
Brown served four terms in the House, but lost his primary this spring after legislative redistricting put him in a new district.
His tenure was not without controversy. He gained national notoriety for comments he made critical of gay people. In January of 2011, he garnered headlines by telling the Winston-Salem Journal that the state should cut off funding for programs that help people with HIV.
"I'm not opposed to helping a child born with HIV or something, but I don't condone spending taxpayers' money to help people living in perverted lifestyles," Brown told the paper.
In an email the previous year, Brown described gay people as "queers" and said that a ceremony honoring a colleague's work on equal rights would be attended by “a couple legislative fruitloops.” That fallout from that comment prompted one gay rights group to send Brown's office 279 empty miniature boxes of “Froot Loops” cereal.
Still, his colleagues and former colleagues remembered him as a hard worker who kept his constituents foremost in his mind. Dawn Morgan, the current mayor of Kernersville, told the Winston-Salem Journal today that Brown was "someone who would remember a birthday, who would take the time to talk with everyone and ask about their concerns. He put a lot of energy and consideration toward representing the citizens of Kernersville. That is something I admire."
Gov. Bev Perdue has ordered that state flags be lowered to half staff through sunset on Friday in tribute to Brown.