The Reverend Enoch Clayton Brown

My name is actually my middle name.  Clayton is also my dad’s middle name, my cousin’s middle name, my nephew’s middle name, my grandfather’s middle name, and my great-grandfather’s middle name.  From what I understand, my great-grandfather (Moses Clayton) was referred to as “Clayt.”  Enoch Clayton, my grandfather, died when I was in high school. He had been a baptist preacher, and when he died, my grandmother asked if there was anything of his that I would like.

As anyone who’s ever been in my house knows, I like old things.  When she asked this question, my eye fell on his old file cabinet.  It was probably made in the 50s, and is as solid as a steel safe.  I use it nearly every day. I recently moved, so I had to remove everything from the drawers in order to give the movers even a hope of lifting it.  Now that it’s in my new place, I started filling it back up again with my papers.

My grandfather had filled the bottom drawer with dividers to keep his documents organized.  But they were not the removable kind — it would require a bit of effort to get them out.  I considered tearing them out, but then I started reading the headers he had typed on them with his electric typewriter (the one I had played with as a kid in his office) and I immediately realized I wanted them to stay.  I wrote with pencil the headers I needed next to his: taxes, student loan, insurance, warrantees, important documents, documentary projects, fiction projects, miscellaneous.  But as I filed my papers this second time, I noticed again the headers he had typed and had to stop and wonder about the different lives we had lived, and the different things we thought about.  There are too many to include them all, but a partial list of his headings includes:
Bible Characters
Bible Studies
Christ — Jesus
Christian Education
Christian Life
The Church — Its Commission and Ministry
Church Workers
Denomination — Baptist
Doctrinal Sermons
Eternity — Heaven (with “or hell” written in pencil)
Funeral Messages
God — The Father, Son, Holy Spirit, The Trinity
Home — Love, Courtship, Marriage, The Christian Home
Baptism and The Lord’s Supper
Salvation — Repentance, Faith, Belief
Second Coming of Christ
Security of the Believer
Sin and Evil
Virgin Birth

I only heard my grandfather preach a couple of times, and I was very young, but from what I understand he was not at all a “fire-and-brimstone” type preacher, but rather more of a bible scholar whose sermons were more analysis and examination.  I’m assuming that these files used to contain his typed up sermons — I’m not sure what happened to them.  By the time I was old enough to have a meaningful conversation with him he had settled into a quiet man who sat stoically in an easy chair, not saying much.  Maybe by that time he had used up all his words.  Maybe he’d said all he needed to say.  One glimpse I had into his mode of expression was when I was quite young, playing around in front of the television as he sat in his easy chair.  I guess I stood up and got transfixed by something else, not moving, and was blocking his view.  He said, very calmly, “you’re not a window, son.”  It made perfect sense, even to a six-year old.  I also remember he made the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had.

I plan to leave those file folders there forever, and will never take out the crooked “Rev. E. C. Brown” name tag on the front of the cabinet.  Maybe a future owner will wonder at the strange, often loaded (and completely unintentional) word pairings — his first in manual typewriter, all caps, mine second in handwritten pencil — on the file folders:
Bible Studies / Insurance
Christian Life / Warrantees
Doctrinal Studies / Fiction Projects
Faith / School
Christ Jesus / Student Loan
and (perhaps my favorite) Eternity – Heaven or Hell / Other Projects.

It’s very interesting to me to think about the conversations we might have had, and what he would have thought about The Atom Smashers, the Higgs boson, and neutrinos.  And it’s very hard to say which would be more intimidating (or inspiring) for a casual passerby to come across: a file folder marked “Neutrino Oscillation” or one marked “Eternity – Heaven (or Hell)”?

~ by claytonbrown2 on July 22, 2010.

7 Responses to “The Reverend Enoch Clayton Brown”

  1. That’s great story, Clayton. Thank you so much for sharing it. I shall hereafter always refer to you as Clayton, not Jeff, as I have done all these years. I now understand the importance of that name to you.

  2. What an interesting post, and what a treasure from the past. Thanks for sharing – it’s wonderful. I didn’t know your grandfather was a pastor. My paternal grandfather was a Baptist pastor too. He also tuned pianos and played the musical saw. (By the way, good luck in NYC!)

  3. Thanks, Bill. Much appreciated, and a high compliment from a professional storyteller.

  4. I’m curious to know whether I’ve finally stumbled upon one of the Claytons I’ve wondered about for so long. If your grandfather was pastor at McAlester First Baptist in approximately 1956-57 then I have a short bitter-sweet story about his quiet strength.

  5. Hello — yes, indeed, that is my grandfather! I just spoke with my dad, Donald Clayton Brown, and he confirmed it. I’d be very interested to hear all about it!

  6. Wow! Most interesting! I was curious to know whether Dr. E.C. were still alive~& thought his unusual name would be searchable. Glad to hear your dad’s still around..’hello’ & ‘good wishes’ to him whereever he is 🙂 Perhaps he will remember a hot-shot younger ping-pong adversary at Falls Creek Church Camp~Sonja Massey (Williams), c’est moi. I loved your granddad as pastor of our church precisely because he always sounded like a Voice of Reason. From your description of his personality, I just knew it had to be The Dr. Brown I remembered from so long ago.~~~The story-to me a memorable Love Story-had your grandmother at the center. She loved to dress nicely and was always perfectly & very tastefully made up-including a pretty hat, red lipstick & red nail polish. I supposed someone must have complained to your granddad about the appropriateness of her style. One Sunday morning before beginning his usual sermon, he said first he had a personal comment – “this one time”-, and referred to wagging tongues & fault-finders. With understated, controlled anger in his very level voice but as close to fire in his eyes as I Ever saw, he said “Anyone knows an old barn looks a lot better with some new paint on it!” I’m sure he delivered many sermons which I enjoyed hearing during the years he was at FBC, but nothing stuck in my mind as strongly ~ nor made him more “human” ~than his example of defending his wife so publicly.~~~~ That’s it. I hope it’s not a story you’ve heard before. If it reveals something about him you didn’t know, so much the better! 🙂

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