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Obituaries » James Thompson Brown

James Thompson Brown

March 16, 1927 - July 31, 2019

A memorial celebration will be held at The Bishop’s Ranch on September 7, 2019 at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to The Bishop’s Ranch ( or Mission Graduates in San Francisco (


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The Reverend James Thompson Brown passed away just after dawn on July 31, 2019 at 92 years of age. Jim was born on March 16, 1927, to Harold Ross Brown and Norinne Thompson Brown in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jim was the youngest of four children: the late Norinne “Brownie” Morris (Richard), the late Harold Ross Jr. “Jack” Brown (Wid) and the late Janet Oakford (Robert). He grew up in a large extended family and enjoyed many adventures with close cousins Lynn Thompson and Ezra Thompson and on family trips to the much-loved Balsam Hill Cabin in Brighton, Utah.

Jim attended the Hill School in Pottstown, PA, graduating in 1945, and was the president of his senior class. Afterward he served in the U.S. Navy, including a stint at sea. Jim attended Yale University, spent his junior year in Paris, France, and graduated in 1950. He maintained a love of the French people and language, lived in France after college and visited later in life. He also spent time living with a family in Baja California.

After college Jim worked at the Asia Foundation in San Francisco then went east to attend General Seminary in New York City, eventually becoming an Episcopal priest. In a long career in the church he was of service in the Dinétah at St. Christopher’s near Bluff, Utah, at All Hallows-by-the-Tower in London and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Salt Lake City. In 1971 Jim was called to serve at St. John the Evangelist Church in San Francisco. He eventually became the rector there and was involved in many social service and contemplative ministries in San Francisco and at The Bishop’s Ranch retreat center near Healdsburg, CA. Trips to Taizé in France were especially meaningful for him. After retiring from parish ministry Jim moved near Sebastopol, CA in 1986. There he made a wonderful country home and was joined by close friends including John Renke, Bill Musick, Mike Lee, the late Richard Falk and the late Rev. George Willis. Of course the farm was also populated by a succession of his cherished dogs and cats. Soon he was serving at the Chapel of St. George at The Bishop’s Ranch where he remained the beloved chaplain until a second retirement in 2011.

A truly kind and welcoming man, Jim had an inner light that was inspirational to many. People responded immediately to his remarkable personal warmth and were put at ease by his down-to-earth authenticity. It was a delight to experience his laughter and stories and characteristic amusement and wonder at the miracle of life. Jim loved art and was an accomplished potter and decorator. His deep love and understanding of nature was a great solace to him in his latter years as were his frequent walks with his dogs where he enjoyed impromptu visits with neighbors. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by loving friends. Jim is survived by nieces Gretchen Nordlund, Kif Brown and Norin Felton (Lyn), nephews Stephen Smith (Pamela), Donald Smith (Lili), Terry Morris (Kathy), Chad Morris (Nancy), Rod Morris (Connie), longtime friends Sean and Caroline Swift, and the families of all of these.

A memorial celebration will be held at The Bishop’s Ranch on September 7, 2019 at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to The Bishop’s Ranch ( or Mission Graduates in San Francisco (