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Gentleman Jim passes away
Jim Brown, right, is shown at Manteca Golf Course with Vern Gebhardt who was the head coach at East Union High prior to Brown. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Jim Brown - an East Union High coaching icon known as a true gentleman - passed away over the weekend while vacationing in Georgia with his wife Jan.

His football record was 78-95-1. Brown, 72, also helped deliver three Lancer Valley Oak League football championships in 1981, 1982 and 1989.

But those aren’t  the things that friends, former players, and former coaches - opposing and those who worked with - remember about the man that was referred to almost universally as “Gentleman Jim” during his 30 years of teaching in the Manteca Unified School District.

“He listened to kids,” noted retired East Union High Principal Dick Durham who hired Brown away from the Manteca High faculty and the Buffalo varsity football coaching staff in December of 1980.

That - and the fact Brown was vested in his students in and out of the classroom as well as his athletes on and off the field - made Brown stand out among a slew of applicants jockeying to take over the Lancer program,

Walker Vick - who was head football coach at Manteca High at the time - knew that he had lost a good coach and a good man.

“He was a people person,” Vick said of Brown. “He was always respectful. He was a hard worker.”

Prior to several years as a varsity level assistant for the Buffaloes, Brown led the sophomore football program along with Bob Leatherwood to produce a perfect season. He also coached varsity baseball for Manteca High and teamed up with Vic to coach American Legion baseball in the summer.

Durham noted that the “Gentleman Jim” moniker was well-earned given his attitude toward others and the fact he was a dapper dresser.

“He wasn’t like the old school coaches that thought you had to yell, jump up and down and shout during games,” Durham said. “He was that way off the field too.”

Vic said it was one of the reasons he was well liked by players, fellow teachers, coaches, and even opponents.

It is hard to go through the coaching ranks of Sierra, East Union, Manteca and even Ripon high school without finding someone who played for or coached with Brown. That is in addition to a number of former players who entered teaching that will say he is the reason they decided to pursue career in education.

Rick Arucan, a retired Sierra High principal who coached with Brown, said the former Lancer head coach met all the true definitions of a real leader.

“He was a man of his word,” Arucan said. “A good leader is strong and surround himself with people who have strengths and then lets them do what they have to do.”

Arucan said when he heard of Brown’s passing he thought of the final scene in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” when the private that was saved visits the graves at Normandy of the men who gave their lives to get him home. In the movie that former World War II soldier then in his 80s turns to his wife and asked if he had been a good enough man in life to benefit from such a sacrifice. His wife told him that he indeed had been a good man.

“That’s what really matters in life when you get down to it,” Arucan said. “Without a doubt I can say that Jim Brown was a good man.”

 Dino Cunial - who coached against Brown and had the opportunity to work with him as East Union High athletic director - knew Brown for more than 40 years.

“He was an excellent coach who genuinely cared about the kids on and off the field,” Cunial said.

Brown is also remembered by many for doting on his wife Jan and their children. During the Christmas rush, he’d be seen helping his wife Jan who owned Allen’s Jewelry in downtown Manteca.

Brown was inducted into the 2009 Manteca High Hall of Fame in the field of education.

He moved from Oklahoma in 1962 when he signed a teaching contract with the Manteca Elementary School District. He taught for three years in the seventh and eighth grade at Golden West School. While at Golden West School he helped start the summer Head Start program for the district.

In 1968, Brown transferred to Manteca High where he initially taught in the then new continuation education program. He taught in the program through 1970. He then joined the main teaching staff at Manteca High teaching math, driver’s training, and health classes. He coached for the Buffaloes from 1971 through 1981.

Brown transferred to East Union in 1981 to teach math and physical education along with the head football job, He stayed at East Union High for 17 years before retiring in 1998.

He had eight Valley Oak League championships under his belt including three as the head sophomore coach at Manteca High, two as varsity assistant coach at Manteca High, and three as head football coach at East Union. Brown’s teams made it to five section play-offs and made it to the finals twice.

The weight room at East Union High is named the “Jim C. Brown Fitness Center” in his honor.