Danny & Cheryl Brown: A Love Story

The passing of Danny Brown last month could be reported as a loss to Baton Rouge of a master photojournalist who covered such historic events as the Apollo moon landings and the career of LSU All-America Pistol Pete Maravich.
Or the focus might be on the intimate access he had at the Governor’s Mansion during the terms of Govs. Edwin Edwards and Dave Treen, which allowed him to chronicle their activities as no one else.
Or it might focus on the way he volunteered freely for a variety of causes including Istrouma High.
But in reality the story of Danny Brown is a love story — a love story that’s worth telling.
As a student at Istrouma High school, he discovered an interest in photography. Soon he was taking photos for the War Whoop newspaper, which published 36 issues his senior year. But processing his photos was costing the War Whoop a small fortune. So to save money for the paper, he set up a dark room at home and was able to print his own photos.
In the Pow Wow, the Istrouma yearbook for 1965, you’ll see a picture of Danny Brown on the War Whoop staff page right next to a young lady named Cheryl Cannon. They were just friends and never dated. Danny was overweight and that made him a bit shy with girls.
Cheryl said, “In high school, I had a boyfriend and in my mind we were either going to get married or I was going to die,” she laughed. “Well, we didn’t get married. I dated a little bit but not a lot. Over the years, I never found anyone I was interested in.”
Danny and Cheryl graduated from Istrouma in 1965 and went to LSU. Danny enrolled in the LSU School of Journalism. He continued to volunteer to help Ms. Sandra Polick on the Pow Wow staff and would attend Istrouma High football games and take photos for the yearbook.
Then as fate would have it, there was a controversial call on the last play of the game between Istrouma and Catholic High — a big rivalry. Istrouma had gone ahead with 1:30 left in the game. Then on the last play, Catholic appeared to score, but the referee said no. The stadium went crazy with controversy. Danny had taken photos of the Istrouma TD and everything after that. He was the only photographer in position to get the last play, and it showed the ref was wrong — that Catholic did score!
Danny thought for a moment about his loyalty to Istrouma… and then about his possible photography career and his loyalty to the truth. He remembered the number for the Advocate, walked over to the pay phone at Memorial Stadium, and called the Sports Desk! Jim Faulkner answered.
“I have some photos you might be interested in!” Danny said.
Faulkner said bring them! He hired Danny as a stringer on the spot! “We pay $5 a photo!” he said. Danny could cover two or three games on a Friday night and make $25. It was good money!
When summer came, they hired him to fill in for photographers who went on vacation. Finally, there was a full-time opening. John Dobbs left, and Danny applied for the job.
Bernell Ballard told Danny what happened in the meeting, which was chaired by the legendary editor Maggie Dixon. The editors all had their say and agreed Danny was too young and inexperienced to be an Advocate photographer.
Maggie Dixon heard all the arguments and frowned. Then she slammed her notebook closed, stood up, and said, “Danny Brown is our new photographer!”
Not too long after that, there was an opening for a general assignment reporter and Danny applied to the new editor, Jim Hughes. Hughes said, “Well, yes, but it pays $15 less than being a photographer and I’m still going to make you take photos.”
Danny said, “It’s a deal!”
One day, they had Danny working on the wire desk with Jim Johnson. It was the day of the first moon landing — Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Danny ran home to watch on TV. As Neil Armstrong was about to step on the moon, he realized, “What a great picture!” So he took a shot of the TV screen and raced back to the newspaper office.
As it turned out, his photo was better than the AP photo. So the Advocate used his! But as late as last month, he was still complaining, “They left out my byline!” and laughed.
After that, Danny claimed to be the resident astrojournalist. When Apollo 12 came along, he learned they were issuing credentials to journalists but you had to have a letter from your superior. So he went to the managing editor, Ernest Gueynard and asked for permission. Danny said he would pay all his own expenses if they would just keep paying his salary. Gueynard agreed!
At Cape Kennedy, Danny met astronauts, NASA officials, high ranking government leaders, and pillars of the national press, and he got great photos! Most importantly, he picked up one particular souvenir — the Parking Pass for Space 12, which was as close to the launch site as the press could get!
For the next three Apollo launches, everybody at the Advocate wanted to go to Florida, but every time, Gueynard sent Danny! “They didn’t know my secret! I told the editor that there were no more parking passes for the press and that I was the only one who could get in! It sounds crazy, but he bought it!”
After the Advocate, Danny went to work for DOTD, which happened to be right next door to the Governor’s Mansion. Gov. Edwards found out he was available and issued standing orders to send Danny over to take pictures! That continued throughout Gov. Treen’s administration and a few times in the Roemer administration.
Danny usually took the lead in planning class reunions for the Istrouma Class of 1965. Then in 1995, on the 30th anniversary, Cheryl Cannon came to the planning meeting at Danny’s house.
They were both 48. Neither had ever married and rarely dated, but they decided to go out after the meeting. Then over the next few months, they started seeing each other more and more frequently.
They kept their romance a secret from family and friends. “You know how people talk!” Cheryl said, “We didn’t want any pressure.”
Everything was going along swimmingly until one day they were riding down Florida Boulevard and Danny’s nephew saw them! The cat was out of the bag! Pretty soon everyone knew something was going on! “We knew we had to get married!” she said.
They got married and Cheryl moved into Danny’s house. “Can you believe, everything was brown!” [Danny Brown, get it?] “He said, ‘Well, you can change anything you want except my office!’ I went in there and he had this horrible shag carpet. I got rid of it!”
Being married agreed with the Browns, and they loved each other and their life. Their strong bond was tested when Cheryl developed cancer and almost died. Danny was her caregiver. Then a couple of years ago, Danny got cancer. He fought as hard as he could. By last year he had lost 80 pounds. He suffered a lot, and she lost him last month. They were married 22 years.
Now Cheryl’s cancer has come back with a vengeance and she is struggling. The doctors tell her they have one more treatment to try.
“I love him so much! No matter what happens, I know we’ll be together again!”

Woody Jenkins graduated from Istrouma High with Danny Brown in 1965 and from the LSU School of Journalism with him in 1969.

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