Brown was the son of William Samuel and Lucille Lokey Brown. He attended the University of Alabama and began his career as a police reporter for the Birmingham Post in the mid-1930s. He married the former Mildred Harbour in 1935. In 1936 he was named city editor for the Dothan Eagle. He moved on to positions with newspapers in Atlanta, Chattanooga and St Louis before joining the New York Daily News in 1939.
Brown served in the 460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion during World War II, parachuting into Normandy during the D-Day invasion. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre with palm for his service. The war also ended his marriage to Mildred. Afterward he returned to the Daily News but also began contributing fiction and non-fiction to the Saturday Evening Post. He married the former Frances O'Reilly in 1945, having met her while on assignment in Europe.
Brown's first novel, Stars in My Crown, was based on his earlier short story "Grandpa and the Miracle Grindstone". He was commissioned to adapt the novel for the 1950 film version, starring Amanda Blake, whose family was from Birmingham.
In 1949 he joined the staff of TIME magazine as a foreign correspondent, reporting from India, France and England until he left the magazine to become a freelancer in 1957. The film version of his 1956 World War II novel Kings Go Forth opened in 1958.
Brown's comic novel Addie Pray was set in Alabama during the Great Depression. The film, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, starred Ryan O'Neal and his 10-year-old daughter Tatum as con-artist partners. Tatum won an Oscar for best supporting actress, though her part was really a starring role.
Brown died of a heart attack at his home in Mayfield, Georgia in 1976.
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