William A. Brown (bishop)

William Ambrose Brown (January 3, 1878 – July 12, 1965) was an American prelate who served as the forth Bishop of Southern Virginia between 1938 and 1950.

Early life and education

Brown was born in Albemarle County, Virginia on January 3, 1878, the son of Henry William Brown and Sarah Slade Runyard, who emigrated to the United States from England in 1872. He was educated at the public schools of Danville, Virginia, and later at Roanoke College from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1898 and a Master of Arts in 1901. He also graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1902. He was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1917 and a Doctor of Laws from Roanoke College in 1938.[1]

Ordained ministry

Brown was ordained deacon in 1901 and priest on May 29, 1902 by Bishop Alfred Magill Randolph of Virginia, during which he served as rector of Christ Church in Blacksburg, Virginia. In 1902 he became rector of Magill Memorial Church in Pulaski, Virginia and in 1904 he became rector of St. John's Church in Portsmouth, Virginia, a post he held till 1938.[2] His daughter, Mary Brown Channel, would go on to design additions to the latter structure during her architectural career.[3]


Brown was elected Bishop of Southern Virginia 1938 and was consecrated on May 3, 1938 by Presiding Bishop Henry St. George Tucker in St John's Church, Portsmouth, Virginia.[4] He retired in May 1950 and died on July 12, 1965.


Brown married twice, first to Mary Ramsey in 1902, and after her death he married Winifred Washington Watts in 1938. He had to children from his first marriage, including Mary Brown Channel, the first woman licensed to practice architecture in Virginia.


  1. ^ "Two Bishops die". The Living Church. 151: 5. 3 October 1965.
  2. ^ White, T. J. (1969). "Brown, William Ambrose". The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. 51: 326.
  3. ^ "Art & Architecture | St. John's Episcopal Church". Stjohnsportsmouth.org. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  4. ^ "William Ambrose Brown". The Living Church Annual: 53. 1939.

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