July 31, 2003 by

Matt Brown

10 comments

Categories: Extraordinary People

In the 1970s, Matthew Clelon Brown was a Muscular Dystrophy Association poster child. The picture of the brown-haired, wheelchair-bound boy getting hugged by comedian Jerry Lewis helped put a human face on the disease.
Brown was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a condition that leads to severe muscular weakness and respiratory failure. Doctors predicted he wouldn’t live past childhood.
Knowing his time was so limited, Brown got involved with the MDA. From 1977-1978, he served as the group’s national goodwill ambassador, traveling all over the U.S. and making appearances on several Labor Day telethons. He was featured on “60 Minutes” and “Good Morning America,” and visited with President Jimmy Carter.
Although he suffered from repeated bouts of illness, Brown graduated from high school, married, volunteered with the MDA and became a telemarketer in Eastanollee, Ga. He sold water purification systems and magazines using a special pair of headphones because he couldn’t lift up a telephone. He also published his autobiography, “Crying in the Night,” in 1995.
“I want to change the illusion that the disabled are invalid and incapable of leading happy, normal lives without discrimination,” Brown once said.
Brown died on July 18 of complications from pneumonia and spinal muscular atrophy. He was 35.

10 Responses to Matt Brown

  1. Ginger Brown

    I was married to Matthew. We married in 1990 at Northside baptist church in Roswell Ga.
    Each and every day I miss him. Matthew was a true inspration to everyone.
    Ginger

  2. TERRY BORDELON

    YOU COULD NOT FIND A BRAVER SOLDIER TO FIGHT SUCH A DISEASE THEN MATT. WE WENT TO DISNEY WORLD TOGETHER ALONG WITH BUDDIES:TONY,DAVE AND A YOUNG BOY FROM SOUTH GEORGIA NAMED JASON. WE GAVE THEM THE WORLD FOR THREE GLORIOUS DAYS, THAT I’LL NEVER FORGET. MATT HUMBLED ME. WE TALKED OFTEN OF THE BEAST OF THE DISEASE AND WHERE IT MAY LEAD HIM. TO KNOW MATT BROWN WAS AN HONOR. TERRY BORDELON

  3. Matthew Brown

    Hi my name is also Matt Brown I’m 19 and I have SMA too. I knew matt all my life and we were on the MDA telethon together in like 92 or 93 that’s when Matt introduced me to Ginger his wife.
    If anyone would like to contact me my e-mail address is thedjman21@yahoo.com. Thanks Matt for being a friend.
    Goodbye Matt

  4. Heather "Ayesha" Karim

    Matt was the best friend I ever had. He was the one person in the world I could tell anything to and know I would never be judged. He never let being handicapped rule him, he ruled it. He was an inspiration to me everyday of my life and stories of him to my diabetic daughter inspire her to rule her diabetes intead of letting it rule her. Even when he was suffering, he’d always put on a happy face and make those around him laugh.
    A silly argument over some things that weren’t true ended our 12 year friendship and I missed Matt every single day and thought of all the trouble he must be getting into, the new people in his life that he would bring such joy to (he was always meeting new people and making a difference in other’s lives) and what new adventures he was embarking on.
    It’s funny how one person’s lies can destroy such a wonderful relationship and how years later the effects are still devastating. I was going through a nasty divorce back then and my ex husband wanted to make sure I had no one, he even stole my children and it took five years to get them back… No one knew how to reach me when Matt passed, so I just found out today, three long years later. I am so crushed by this news, all I can think of was whether Matt forgave me or not, because he has always been one of the top five most important people in my life.
    Matt, wherever you are out there – I’m glad you aren’t suffering anymore. I love you Matt and always have. Rest in peace buddy, you of all people deserve peace.

  5. Cassandra Anderson

    Matt brown was my godfather, My mother, sister, and I miss him very much. My mother went to high school with Matt and they were quick friends then later he worked for my mother at the telemarketing place I would often go to work with my mother and hang out with matt. He came to live with us for a while and it was gods gift to us to have him there. After a while he moved out and then a couple of weeks later he died. I miss him very much and I am so happy that he is with god like he always wanted to be and he can now watch over and guide me.

  6. Terri Lormand

    I don’t know what made me think of Matt today, it had been many years since my husband and I saw him. I knew he was very involved with MDA so I did a google search and found that he had passed away. We met Matt and Ginger at the MDA telethon in Atlanta back in 89 or 90. He was the neatest guy, such an inspiration! His wife too. I still have a picture of them with my daughter Missy. We kept in touch with them for a little while through Melaleuca but eventually lost touch for one reason or another, to my regret. My heart goes out to Ginger, I know she loved him a lot. He was a great guy.

  7. Alice Venter (previously Duckett)

    Matt.. I still think of you sometimes. I still have your book proudly on my shelf.
    My father-in-law has a spine disorder and recently became disabled. He has great pain, but he lets it get him down. I pray and hope for him to have the strength and determination you had. But even more, I pray he finds the pure, unadulterated spirit of positive light you had… have.
    It has, in part, brought our family to it’s knees… and so much weighs on his illness. He was denied long term disability and they have not much other income. All I want to do is show you as an example.
    I will never forget you at NRA as my supervisor. You never missed a day and if you did, we knew something was really wrong. Your poor twisted body couldn’t hold back that strong voice that commanded attention, never letting people on the other side of the headset know that you could barely breath as you pushed with all your might to fight against the muscles that held you prisoner… just to take a breath. I know you were heart broken when I went off to Africa to marry my husband… but we talked for ages on the phone when I got back home. I only learned of your death the following Fall when I ran into John who was interviewing at a company I was going to work for.
    I want you to know that you helped grow a strong confidence in me at my very green age of 19. I struggle to find that girl and her confidence again. She has all but perished, barely able to command a sentence… the way you commanded the attention of all who was in your presence with your declarative thumb… to bring light to their hearts with your sweet smile.
    Love you Matt…
    Alice Lindsay Duckett – Venter
    anyone that wants to connect and share a memory of Matt with me… my email address is alice.venter@gmail.com

  8. Beth Wills

    I went to homecoming with Matt back in 83. He was so much fun. He did wheelies in his wheel chair to the tune of Stevie Wonder “Do I do” I am so glad to hear that he went on to have a nice life and get married. He was a special person
    Beth Wills

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