Brown was born in Alabama and raised in Cleveland. He came to New York in the mid '70s and joined the Negro Ensemble Company, of which he was a member for 15 years. He received a 1980 Tony nomination for Best Actor in Samm-Art William's Home and a 2001 Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in August Wilson's King Headley III; for the latter performance, he also received the 2001 Drama Desk Award. He created roles in two Pulitzer Prize winning plays, A Soldier's Play by Charles Fuller and Fences by August Wilson, and in Neil Simon's Rumors. Brown's Off-Broadway credits include John Guare's A Few Stout Individuals and Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen's The Exonerated.
He is survived by his wife, Renee Lescook Brown; his stepdaughter, Dominique Stewart; three granddaughters; and his longtime friend and companion, Lynda Gravátt. A celebration of Brown's life will be held at The Signature Theater (555 West 42nd Street) on Monday, February 9, from 1-3pm.