Prentiss M. Brown

Prentiss Marsh Brown (June 18, 1889 – December 19, 1973) was a Democratic U.S. Representative and Senator from the state of Michigan.

Prentiss M. Brown
Prentiss Marsh Brown.jpg
United States Senator
from Michigan
In office
November 19, 1936 – January 3, 1943
Preceded byJames J. Couzens
Succeeded byHomer S. Ferguson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1933 – November 18, 1936
Preceded byFrank P. Bohn
Succeeded byJohn F. Luecke
Personal details
Prentiss Marsh Brown

(1889-06-18)June 18, 1889
St. Ignace, Michigan
DiedDecember 19, 1973(1973-12-19) (aged 84)
St. Ignace, Michigan
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Marion Walker
ChildrenPrentiss M. Brown, Jr., Paul W. Brown, Jim Brown, four others
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Albion College


Brown was born in St. Ignace, Michigan and attended the public schools there. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated from Albion College in Albion, Michigan in 1911. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1914 and commenced practice in St. Ignace.

Brown married Marion Walker in 1916.[1] The couple had a total of seven children.[2]

Brown was prosecuting attorney of Mackinac County from 1914 to 1926 and the city attorney of St. Ignace from 1916 to 1928. He was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1924 to the United States House of Representatives and in 1928 for election as justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He was a member of the State Board of Law Examiners from 1930 to 1942.


Brown was elected as a Democrat from Michigan's 11th congressional district to the United States House of Representatives for the 73rd Congress and was reelected to the 74th Congress, serving from March 4, 1933, until his resignation, effective November 18, 1936.

He was elected as a Democrat on November 3, 1936, to the United States Senate for the term beginning January 3, 1937, but was subsequently appointed to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of James Couzens for the term ending January 3, 1937. In total, he served from November 19, 1936, to January 3, 1943.

He was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Claims in the Seventy-seventh Congress. He was also a member of the Banking and Currency Committee, and in this capacity was instrumental in helping Franklin D. Roosevelt achieve his desired wage and farm price controls.[3] He was an unsuccessful candidate for re-election in 1942.

After Congress: familyEdit

In December 1942, Roosevelt selected Brown to take over as administrator of the Office of Price Administration, replacing Leon Henderson, whose tenure as administrator was listed as one of the major reasons for Democratic losses in the 1942 elections.[3] In 1943 he resumed the practice of law in both Washington, D.C., and Detroit, Michigan. He also served as chairman of the Detroit Edison Company.

In 1951, Brown was named chairman of the new Mackinac Bridge Authority and served until his death. During his chairmanship, this authority oversaw the construction of Michigan's Mackinac Bridge. He once stated during a radio interview that he came up with the idea for the Mackinac Bridge after an unusually bitter winter one day disrupted his commute to work by ferry and forced him to cross the strait on the brittle icy lake surface.

Brown died in St. Ignace at the age of 84 and is interred there at Lakeside Cemetery.

Two of Brown's children were also active in Democratic party politics. Prentiss M. Brown, Jr., ran unsuccessfully for Congress several times, in 1952, 1956, 1958, and 1960,[1] and was the city attorney for St. Ignace for 50 years.[2] Paul Walker Brown was a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan from 1971 until 1994, and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1974.[1]


  • He has been called the "father of the Mackinac Bridge."[4] His import was so great that his visage was placed on a special memorial bridge token created by the Mackinac Bridge Authority.[5]
  • In 2004, Albion College renamed its Honors Institute the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Institute in memory of the 1911 alumnus.[6]
  • Between 1976 and 2001, the stretch of Interstate 75 between the Mackinac Bridge and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, was known as the Prentiss M. Brown Memorial Highway.[7] Since 2001, the Prentiss M. Brown Memorial Highway is designated as the name of I-75 in Mackinac County on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge.[7]
  • His accomplishments are commemorated as a "Michigan Legal Milestone" erected by the State Bar of Michigan.[8]
  • He is prominently featured in the PBS documentary "Building the Mighty Mac" by LA filmmaker Mark Howell.


  1. ^ a b c Kestenbaum
  2. ^ a b Paquin 2007
  3. ^ a b Time 1942
  4. ^ Prentiss M. Brown, Father of the Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Bridge Authority. Archived 2009-12-22 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Commemorative tokens, Mackinac Bridge Authority". Archived from the original on 2009-12-22. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
  6. ^ Albion College press announcement. Archived 2004-10-10 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Barnett 2004, pp. 177–178
  8. ^ Michigan Legal Milestones. Archived 2009-01-14 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
Thomas A. E. Weadock
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Michigan
(Class 2)

1936, 1942
Succeeded by
Frank Eugene Hook
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Frank P. Bohn
United States Representative for the 11th congressional district of Michigan
Succeeded by
John F. Luecke
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
James J. Couzens
United States Senator (Class 2) from Michigan
Succeeded by
Homer S. Ferguson