A Football Legacy: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

Marjorie “Margie” Wasson moved to Conway in her teens when her father, Harold Jesse Wasson, bought a dairy farm south of Conway. She attended Conway High but then went to Gulf Park College finishing school in Gulfport, Mississippi, graduating in 1950. She also walked with her class at Conway High.

After high school, she attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. During one summer vacation from college, she decided to take a course in Florida. There she met Robin Brown, the eldest son of legendary coach Paul Brown, who was playing football for the University of Miami.

Robin, like his father, had been a quarterback in high school. When he suffered a head injury his junior year of high school, Paul Brown had his son fitted with one of Riddell’s first plastic helmets with the interior cushion. He was one of the first high school players to get one.

As he moved on to college football at Miami, Robin faced a bright future. Unfortunately, he suffered a more severe blow to the head during his freshman season. He survived the ordeal but his football career was over.

When Robin met Margie, he liked it that she didn’t know about his father’s fame. Although Coach Brown’s team, the Cleveland Browns, was winning NFL championships at that time, Margie wasn’t really into football. As for Robin, he liked being out of the limelight.

In June, 1954, Robin and Margie were married on the day she graduated from Northwestern. The ceremony took place in the original First Presbyterian Church sanctuary at the corner of Faulkner and Caldwell in Conway. The couple lived for a time in Illinois and Ohio before settling down in Conway to raise their four children: Scott, Kevin, Bryan and Robin.

Robin opened Robinson Tube Manufacturing Company on Sixth Street in January, 1958. Three years later, he sold the business to Configurated Tube Fabricating Company of Batesville. The plant was destroyed when the 1965 tornado hit Conway.

In 1965, Robin bought Conway’s country music radio station KVEE. The studio was located on Washington Avenue but also had facilities on Civil Defense Hill. He sold the station to Lloyd Stone in the mid-1970s.

Robin and his brother Pete also established Conway Nautilus, which provided training equipment for UCA athletes as well as others in the community. When the Cincinnati Bengals was founded in 1967, Robin became the head scout for his father’s team but continued to live in Conway.

In early 1978, Robin was diagnosed with colon cancer. After only a few months of treatment, he passed away in July, 1978 at the age of 46. As the eldest son of Paul Brown and head scout for the Bengals, his unexpected death garnered national attention.

Many of Coach Brown’s friends and players sent letters of condolence while others sent memorials to the First Presbyterian Church in Conway. Letters came from Mrs. Vince Lombardi, Chuck Fairbanks (Patriots), Bill Walsh (49ers), Paul Wiggin (Saints), Otto Graham (Browns) and many others.

In the months before his passing, Robin had been the treasurer of the First Presbyterian Church building fund. The original sanctuary at Caldwell and Faulkner was to be razed and a new one would be built. After Robin’s death, the building fund received memorial donations from coaches and players throughout the NFL. Donation lists included coaches from the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, Houston Oilers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and the Baltimore Colts.

Paul Brown usually sent his four grandchildren money for Christmas and in 1978, after their father passed away, Robin’s children honored their Dad by donating their Christmas money to pay for the stained glass windows at the front entry of the new church building.

Coach Brown retired after 45 years of coaching in 1975 but remained as the Bengals president until his death in 1991. Robin’s brother, Mike Brown, now owns the Bengals. Robin’s other brother, Pete, also remains involved in the organization. The team’s home on the Ohio River is aptly named Paul Brown Stadium.

Margie Brown remarried and remained very active in civic affairs in Conway until her death in 2015. She was also remembered for her ability to train horses, German shepherds and other animals including a Bengal tiger. I remember many times passing their ranch-style home on Donaghey and seeing her outside with the dogs or the horses. The house was razed to make way for The Edge apartment complex a few years ago.

In 1995, First Presbyterian Church built a new facility on Prince Street. The old church at Caldwell and Faulkner housed the county Juvenile and Circuit courts until 2014 but now houses the UA Division of Agriculture Faulkner County Extension Office.