During his weekly sermon on Sunday, July 15, at Hopewell United Methodist Church, Ch. Lt. Col. Gene Brown was recognized for more than 50 years of service in the Georgia wing of the Civil Air Patrol.
In addition to serving as the pastor of both Hopewell United Methodist Church in Cumming and Salem United Methodist Church in Dawsonville, Brown, 89, has maintained his membership in the Civil Air Patrol, the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary volunteer program.
Brown dreamed of flying long before the day he joined CAP. As a child, Brown first encountered an airplane exhibit at the Southeastern Fair in Atlanta. He stared in amazement at the flying machinery. He was so intrigued that he separated from his mother just to take in the immensity of the exhibit (to be scorned by his mother when she found him).
“The first time I saw a grounded plane, I was a young boy and immediately thought: I’m going to learn how to fly one of those things,” Brown said.
At the same time, Brown was also feeling a spiritual calling. Brown said he first felt called to be a preacher at 8 years old, but spent a few years exploring other interests. Eventually, he embraced that calling. He earned his license to preach in the Methodist church before the age of 16. It became the No. 1 priority of his life.
While attending West Georgia College in Carrollton, Brown roomed with a young man who chastised and mocked Brown for his lack of interest in partying and gambling inside the dorm. Brown endured the roommate’s persistent behavior. Many years later, a longtime friend of Brown’s brought that old roommate to a revival at West Georgia College. On the drive back home, the roommate’s life had changed.
“He made a 180-degree turn,” Brown said. “His life had completely turned around. He was soon saved, accepting Christ into his heart and refusing to let alcohol control his life. He hadn’t had a drink since.”
But, Brown still felt a strong desire to explore piloting, so he moved to Fort Lauderdale to pursue flying lessons. He rented a crop-dusting plane from his aviation instructor and earned his flying license. Brown went on to receive a commercial license, instrument flight instructor certification and flight instructor certification. He went on to hold an instrument rating and multiengine rating, as well as a master pilot rating, all of which require more specific training.
Brown joined the Civil Air Patrol on May 28, 1958, at 28 years old. He became a flight instructor and earned a qualification allowing him to participate in search and rescue missions commissioned by the U.S. Air Force. He is credited with locating two plane crash sites during a search and rescue mission with CAP. Though Brown is a volunteer, he is held to the same standards as any U.S. Air Force pilot.
Brown has committed his life to the gospels and a large portion of his time to the Civil Air Patrol Auxiliary. Brown is a man who has proven himself in the air and in the church.
To this day, Brown believes that he lives by this in his work as pastor of Hopewell UMC and Salem UMC every Sunday morning, his continuous aviation instruction for his students and his conviction for aiding others and the world around him.
“Everyone has potential,” Brown said. “To see someone’s life fully turned around for the better is the most fulfilling achievement I could ever witness.”