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Veteran business leader Herb Brown dies at 100

Bill DeYoung

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Herbert G. Brown, in a 2012 interview with WEDU-TV. Screenshot.

Clearwater businessman Herbert G. Brown, who turned Checkers-Drive In Restaurants into a profitable enterprise, died Tuesday. He was 100.

Brown was inducted into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame, and named Florida Entrepreneur of the Year, in 1991.

Brown was born in Iota, Louisiana, served in World War II, and realized his earliest successes retailing appliance and furniture. He moved to Clearwater in 1970, when his chain of discount stores merged with Eckerd Drugs; he served for several years as Senior Vice President and Board Member of Jack Eckerd Corporation. He opened Brown’s Furniture Distributors in Clearwater, Bradenton and New Port Richey. He bought and sold real estate, building shopping centers and residential communities.

In 1987, Brown bought into the struggling, Alabama-based Checkers-Drive In Restaurants, moving it to Florida and becoming Chairman of the Board. Brown is credited with numerous innovations that turned the hamburger also-ran into a major success. Checkers, once franchised, competed with McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. “We thought we could deliver – and were delivering – a better product at half the price,” he said in a 2012 interview with WEDU’s Suncoast Business Forum. “They had gotten very pricey; there wasn’t much competition back then … it’s just unbelievable how we could go into a town and be the highest-volume stores in the community.”

A longtime member of Rotary, in 1995 and ’96 he was President of Rotary International. He traveled to nearly 100 countries, working on humanitarian and educational programs, and had audiences with Pope John Paul, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela. “My theme,” he said in 2012, was ‘Act with integrity, serve with love and work for peace.’”

Brown was the Chairman of The Rotary International Polio Plus Campaign Committee, and in that role helped raise more than $125 million in the United States, and more than 240 million worldwide, to help immunize more than 2 billion children globally.

In 2008, Brown founded HGBrown & Associates, LLC, a Clearwater-based property management company.

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