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Longtime UC Riverside Videographer James Brown Dies

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His nearly 30 years of telling the UCR story leave an indelible mark on the campus

By Kris Lovekin

RIVERSIDE – Historian, artist and longtime UC Riverside videographer James “Jim” Brown died Dec. 13. His entire career was spent helping to maximize UCR communications efforts through film, videography, and photography. His body of work is, literally, the history of the campus, as he often worked in archival video into new productions.

His deep and sonorous voice is the one narrating countless UCR videos. He has been an iconic figure at UC Riverside for nearly 30 years, with a backwards cap and a camera slung over one shoulder. He has produced many of the shows about UCR that appear on UCTV and on Charter Cable. During some parts of his career he made videos for organizations in the community, including documenting the history of immigrants to Riverside’s Chinatown. He liked to tell the story about suggesting “Diamond Valley Lake” as a name for Riverside County’s newest body of water. He was an artist and sculptor whose work had been exhibited at the UCR Alumni and Visitors Center. The exhibit was called “SEEBESEEN.”

Brown often wanted to be behind the camera, not in front of it. He had a gruff exterior but a tender heart, and a real love for UC Riverside and its history. He mentored many UCR students who interned with him to learn video production, lugging heavy equipment and spending hours editing. They may be the people who know his stories best.

“Jim’s passion for UCR will live on in his legacy of film,” said Chancellor Timothy P. White. “He knew how to use language and images to bring out emotions, from laughter to tears. And wherever Jim went, he brought one or two grateful students, learning the craft at his side.”

Because his father, John Brown, was teaching English at UC Riverside, Brown grew up in campus housing and earned his bachelor’s degree in history at UC Riverside in 1979. Later he edited a book on Riverside County history called “Harvest of the Sun: An Illustrated History of Riverside County.” He was hired as the campus videographer in August of 1983.

“Jim consistently mined his intimate knowledge of the campus, and his positive relationships with faculty and staff, to provide exceptional work,” said James Grant, assistant vice chancellor of strategic communications. “Jim also served the campus with distinction as unofficial historian, as a greeter of new hires at orientation, and as a trusted source for an honest critique of creative projects.”

Long-time UCR staff member and alumnus, Louis Van Den Berg, general manager of KUCR, said he felt a special kinship with Brown as a unique talent. “The university gave us a place to be ourselves,” said Van Den Berg. “He was fantastically original, principled and sensitive.” He remembers Brown as “a trenchant observer” of society.

“In many ways Jim Brown was the voice of UC Riverside,” said Pamela Clute, another alumna who has spent her career at UCR doing outreach in support of math and science. “With his deep, booming sound, he magically combined history and drama telling the highlights of our faculty, student and staff accomplishments.”

Highly respected for his creative talents, yet ever shy about receiving accolades, he told our stories in such a way, that all who witnessed a Jim Brown production became emotionally vested in the UCR community. He was a fan of the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, and designated his estate go to “that small jewel of a museum,” according to Mike Capriotti, a close friend.

Brown is survived by two sisters, Janet Brown of Los Angeles and Rebecca Turner of La Plata, MD; and two nephews, Gabriel Bartlett of Los Angeles and Max Perez of Boulder, CO. No memorial service is planned at this time.

Those desiring to send condolences are asked to address them to the UCR Office of Strategic Communications, 900 University Ave., Riverside, CA, 92521.

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