I’d been with television’s iconic Judge Joe Brown off and on for the last three months, recording an exclusive and in-depth collection of interviews with him for The New Tri-State Defender.
I was a fly on the wall to many meetings or gatherings relative to strategies for his run for the office of Shelby County District Attorney. As with any team, there were disagreements and some outright arguments on the direction of his campaign and the messages sent forth from it.
One thing I learned – as many who have seen his television show over the last 15 years could attest – Judge Brown is strong willed. His personality is as big as the FedExForum, lending credence to reports of his epic battles with executive producers of his TV show, which was cancelled in early 2013.
So there I was, watching from the angle of TV fan but real-time reporter. At times, I felt like I was listening to John Wayne atop a horse. And in other instances you couldn’t have convinced me that this man’s attention to detail of criminal justice was anything less than 500 degrees.
Up to this point, this interview is the only one that Judge Brown has given about the race he lost against incumbent D.A. Amy Weirich. Yes, he threw a local television reporter out of his campaign headquarters with a few choice words you’d hear on Beale Street after midnight, but this exchange was a bit more civil.
Judge Brown launched our session commenting on the fact that his first wife was seen on television congratulating his opponent and we’ll round Jupiter before this thing lands.
Judge Joe Brown: I’ve been divorced from that woman for 22 or 23 years and I didn’t like her much and I don’t suppose she likes me. Unlike the rest of her family who were great people, she didn’t live up to her family. … Honestly, I haven’t really heard it (the TV interview featuring his ex-wife) because I wasn’t really interested in the foolishness.
I’m not sure why there is so much animosity with her towards me because when we split I always paid my child support on time. In fact I thought that the child support that was imposed on me was too low, so I paid five times what I was ordered to pay. I paid $5,000 a month for over 10 years for one child. So now you have to understand that she is basically on the same level in life and finances as she was when I met her over 30 years ago. You see some people just don’t grow.
Kelvin Cowans: Speaking of the race for Shelby County District Attorney, you fought a decent race but came up short. You were able to accumulate over 50,000 votes but still lost by a large number. Some people say that you ran on your name rather than the issues and that the attack against the sexuality of your opponent, whom by all (accounts) is a married woman who loves her children, really turned voters off.
Judge Brown: As far as she is concerned and the comments I made about her I will say this, where there is smoke there is fire, son. As far as this community and itspolitics, you have these small time local yokels that are minor league and are going to stay minor league and never make it out of this city.
The people of power of this city are petty and have insisted on polarizing this county and it most often comes from the media in this city. It is a shame. They have not reported the news. They have done fiction with the goal in mind of backing up the play of regressive political interests. They feel justified to revert to a racist way of looking at things.
The African-American community, which is the majority in this county, feels that the political process offers them scant opportunity for collective self-help. The problem with that is that can quickly lead to social unrest. America runs in 100-year cycles and you will find in four or five years from now that this might not be a very pretty town. People will feel that they have no recourse.
Privatization of the Criminal Justice Center in this county, which is a self-driving economic engine, has run rampant in this town and it’s prospering off of poor and lower middle-class blacks and whites and there is no incentive to correct the economic and social ability of the negatively impacted groups.
K.C.: Looking back, you’ve lived in plenty of places over your lifetime, including California, Florida, Colorado, Illinois and Washington D.C. Your show, which is in syndication now, is shown in America, Canada, Australia, South Africa, France, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Holland, Germany and the Middle East. You could’ve taken up residence and political cause anywhere. Why Memphis?
Judge Brown: Memphis could be the Chicago of the twenty-first century. It has everything that it needs. What better way to spread the word than to go into the capital? It’s a calling I guess. Life could be easier, I could be in retirement but I can’t be. This is where it’s going to happen. There are some good people here – black, white, Asian and Hispanic, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. Memphis could be seriously great. So I’m here to make it that way.
They had me getting the lowest votes of everybody and I don’t buy it; neither does the public. What they have attempted to do is discredit me. This is nothing new, they've done this for years. They have had negative connotations for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Thurgood Marshall, Marcus Garvey and W.E. B. Du Bois. Many of the men were jailed for some reason or another, which helped secure the efforts of their opposers to show that they were what they said they were. It didn’t work and it was a shame.
But what is wrong with our picture here with African Americans? The Jewish, Islamic, Latino communities show cohesive efforts to help each other, but not us. We often act in a cowardly fashion and refuse to take courageous stands. I also believe that there is and was a collective effort to steal this election by some way of those machines. It has already been proven twice that they can be rigged. So, you can look forward to the Democratic Party to challenge the results of this race.
K.C.: What’s next for you.
Judge Brown: You can look for me to run for yet another office right here, and I’m not sure what it will be at the moment, but I am. May be mayor, I don’t know, but I’m going to do work right here in Memphis. So they can get used to seeing me.
My immediate future is a download/CD coming out titled “Judge Joe Brown TURN UP Live from Memphis TN.,” where I touch on over 40 subjects, everything from the criminal justice system to Hollywood living. Then, and a couple of months from now, I will be releasing a book. I’m going to stay busy and moving in purpose. You have not heard the last of me around here.
K.C.: Lastly judge, was it true that you threw a news reporter out of your campaign headquarters.
Judge Brown: That is the nice way of putting it, but yes, I threw him out and I would do it again. All I need is the opportunity to do so.