Brownlow, Louis, 1879-1963

Alternative names
Birth 1879-08-29
Death 1963-09-27

Biographical notes:

Journalist and public administrator. Director of the Public Administration Clearing House and, earlier, president of the Board of Commissioners for the District of Columbia.

From the description of Louis Brownlow speech, 1941 June 2. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 230814504

Louis Brownlow (1879-1963), journalist and political scientist, wrote The President and the Presidency in 1949, A Passion for Politics in 1955, A Passion for Anonymity in 1958, and Anatomy of the Anecdote in 1960.

From the description of Brownlow, Louis, 1879-1963 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10571888

Journalist and public administrator.

From the description of Correspondence of Louis Brownlow, 1920-1929. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 32135391

Louis Brownlow was born the son of a postmaster in rural Buffalo, Missouri on August 29, 1879, his entire life, which ended on September 27, 1963, was dedicated to a resolution of urban problems. After a career as a syndicated journalist, he was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson Commissioner for the District of Columbia in 1915. In 1920 he became City Manager of Petersburg, Virginia, and in 1923 he assumed the same position in Knoxville, Tennessee. From 1931 until he retired in 1945, Brownlow served as Director of Public Administration Clearing House (PACH) with his headquarters on the campus of the University of Chicago. This strategic, yet somewhat detached position provided Brownlow with an almost unique view of the internal operation, of the early New Deal, the Hutchins administration of the University of Chicago, and the activities of the affiliates of the Public Administration Clearing House. Brownlow reported his observations on these subjects as well as his personal experiences and travels in the form of a diary which was recorded daily for the benefit of the trustees of the Clearing House until a heart attack forced him to curtail many of his activities. PACH, which functioned until 1955, was a center for organizations of public officials the field of administration. PACH was not in competition with member agencies. Rather it served to have participating bodies gain advantage from the immediate interchange of information and experience that derived from being housed under one roof. In addition PACH provided extensive research facilities and library services in the field of public administration. The character as well as the content of the diaries are a reflection of Brownlow's a personality, his experience in the field of public administration and the development of PACH the commonly used acronym for the clearing house.

Brownlow was instrumental in channeling foundation money for research in public affairs. His widespread contacts and conciliatory manner made him an invaluable liaison not only among opposing professional factions but between governmental officials and members of the public service. A clear indication of his talent as a mediator at conferences is revealed in a discussion of a housing conclave which he chaired, found in Volume III, pp. 522-27. All of these qualities made Brownlow an important figure in the first administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. With the expansion of government in order to meet the crisis of the depression, Brownlow was consulted on a number of appointments, as well as with respect to the institutionalization of the prolific bureaus. The culmination of this activity was his selection by President Roosevelt to head the President's Committee on Administrative Management in order to recognize the executive branch of the federal government. The formulation of the PACM and Brownlow's role in it may be traced in the last several volumes of the diary.

Set in the hectic early New Deal period, the diaries capture all aspects of Brownlow's activities and personality. While the entries are made daily in chronological order, each of the first five volumes contain a comprehensive subject index which refers to specific pages in the text. A wide variety of subject headings are found in the diaries. Among the most extensive is one devoted to the personnel problems of the New Deal's burgeoning agencies. Here Brownlow discusses background that led to important appointments, such as Leonard D. White as Chairman of the United States Civil Service Commission. Moreover Brownlow follows and evaluates the appointee's subsequent performance on the job. The same detail is true with respect to the accounts of negotiations with other noteworthy public servants, such as Clarence Dykstra, whom the Director of the Public Administration Clearing House was attempting to induce to come to Chicago. In the same vein, Brownlow provided his readers with candid opinions of such important New Dealers as Harold Ickes and Harry Hopkins.

From the guide to the Brownlow, Louis. Diaries, 1933-1936, (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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Ark ID:


  • City planning
  • Journalists
  • Public policy
  • New Deal, 1933-1939
  • Municipal government
  • City managers


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  • Virginia (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Virginia--Petersburg (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Petersburg (Va.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)