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Crystal Malone  Brown

Obituary for Crystal Malone Brown

February 25, 2021
Blue Bell, Pennsylvania


Crystal Malone Brown, whose pioneering efforts to end discrimination faced at the University of Vermont in 1945 and widow of the 1st African American United States Naval Academy Graduate, Lieutenant Commander Wesley A. Brown, Civil Engineer Corps, U. S. Navy (Retired), died February 25, 2021 at a senior living facility in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. She was 94.
The cause was attributed to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Crystal Ellen Malone was born in segregated Washington DC and graduated from Dunbar High School. She matriculated to the University of Vermont (UVM) where she obtained a Bachelor's in Business in 1947. Crystal was one of only two black students on campus when in 1945 she was invited to pledge a white sorority.
Her story made national headlines when Alpha Xi Delta accepted her as a pledgee, a move that upset the national organization, prompting the national president to travel "to Burlington to try to dissuade 18-year-old Malone from joining," according to the Vermont Quarterly online magazine. The college's local chapter, however, heroically burned its charter and disbanded rather than give in to such racially segregationist practices.
A permanent exhibition was recently established concerning Crystal's historic milestone and is on display at UVM, among other black university graduates who made noteworthy accomplishments.
Crystal married Wesley in 1964 and together they fought housing discrimination when denied by a white homeowner the ability to purchase their first house in West Hempstead, Long Island, New York due to race. The ensuing lawsuit resulted in a settlement after a nearly two-year legal battle. They would continue in the struggle to achieve racial justice and equality throughout their 49-year union.
The couple later settled in Washington DC in 1981 following her retirement after 30 years as an educator when she finished her final high school teaching position with the Uniondale School District in New York. They lived at the Rittenhouse in upper Northwest DC for over three decades.
Crystal and Wesley enjoyed extensive international travel, monthly celebrations of their wedding anniversary with champagne, outings with friends to the historic black communities of Oak Bluffs in Martha's Vineyard and nearby Highland Beach in Maryland, hosting bridge tournaments and entertaining in their home.
Crystal was a deeply supportive Navy wife who partnered with Wesley in his unwavering commitment to the strategic initiatives and mission of the Navy and the U.S. Naval Academy. She stood proudly alongside him in 2008 when the Academy along with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G. Mullen and other dignitaries in attendance dedicated its newly constructed $54 million Wesley A. Brown Fieldhouse athletic facility in his honor. Lt. Commander Brown passed away in 2012.
Additionally, Crystal devoted her life to arts and cultural activities. She worked tirelessly on behalf of educational programs for children, continued her efforts for social change through activism, held key leadership positions in The Links, Inc. and Circle-lets, Inc. and in other prominent local and national black civic organizations which served underrepresented communities.
Crystal was described as caring, charismatic, and full of moxie. Her leisure time was filled with a variety of creative activities including as an accomplished seamstress, who expertly sewed, crocheted, and knitted garments; Crystal also collected miniature trains and dabbled in oil painting. An adoring and giving mother, she was affectionately called "Pae" by her family who was at the core of her life.
Crystal was preceded in death by her brother, Stanley R. Malone, Jr., a leading civil rights attorney, and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. She is survived by her treasured three children, seven grandchildren, two great grandchildren, niece, nephew, godchildren, cousins, and a host of beloved and valued friends.
Private inurnment is pending at a future date at the U. S. Naval Academy Cemetery Columbarium in Annapolis, Maryland.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial contributions be made "In Memory of Crystal Brown" for The Lieutenant Commander Wesley A. Brown '49 Honor Scholarship. Donations by mail may be addressed to the attention of Liz Root, Director, Gift Administration, U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, 274 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402, (410) 295-4126 or made online in tribute.

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