Escapee Caught 44 Years Later Man Who’s Lived Quiet Life Hopes To Avoid Return

Eddie Brown doted on his family, worked hard and lived a quiet existence for 44 years before his past finally caught up with him.

Brown was in a minor traffic accident last October. Police checked his license and found he had escaped from a Florida chain gang in 1952.

So, Brown, 64, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems, could be extradited to serve out the 4-1/2 years remaining on his sentence for a holdup he committed when he was 19.

“My hope is I don’t have to go back,” Brown said Friday, sitting with several of his 27 grandchildren on the stoop of his Brooklyn row house. “God knows that’s my hope.”

His lawyer, Scott Buell of the Legal Aid Society, is negotiating with Florida authorities in hopes Brown can avoid jail time.

Dexter Douglass, general counsel to Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, said he and Dade County State Attorney Katherine Rundle discussed the case.

“It doesn’t make much sense - at 64 years old, with diabetes and other health problems - to bring him back here and put him in a state prison,” Douglass said.

Douglass said they had not determined what legal steps were necessary to end the case. “We’re studying what we can do,” he said.

Brown fled because he feared a prison guard was going to kill him, he said. Now he doubts he would survive a prison term of any length.

“I just told my wife, ‘If I have to go back, make sure the insurance is all paid up,”’ he said. “I told her to come pick up my body.”

Years ago, when he was broke and under pressure from his first wife, Brown said he decided to help a friend rob a Miami store. The friend brandished an unloaded pistol and they took $120, Brown said.

Both men were caught and convicted. Brown was assigned to a prison camp where he earned trusty status and was allowed to work without shackles.

Six months into his five-year sentence, a prison captain kicked him for being too slow to get on a truck. The guard threatened Brown.

“After that happened, I couldn’t stay there,” Brown said. “I didn’t run to keep from making my time. I ran to save my life.”

Brown, whose first marriage broke up while he was in prison, ended up in New York in 1957. He remarried and worked jobs that didn’t require security checks: “scrubbing floors, porter work, restaurants. I worked in the World Trade Center shining shoes,” he said.

He has spent the last five years as a security guard at a grocery store. He earns $150 a week to watch the door from his car.

“They haven’t been robbed since I got there,” he said.

Brown’s wife knew about his past, but his children and grandchildren never did.

“He’s always been there for us,” said son Wayne Brown, 38, who works in the housekeeping department at a hotel. “Kept us out of trouble. Everybody turned out all right.”

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