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Russell Brown was born in Fort William, Ontario on December 11, 1911 to Ernest Albert and Hetty (McKeen) Brown. He was educated in Saskatchewan, England and the United States.
Brown was a grain buyer for the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool from 1931 to 1940. After serving with the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Brown joined the Saskatchewan Department of Co-operation and Co-operative Development in 1946 as an auditor. In 1949, he returned to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool as a field representative based out of Regina, Saskatchewan. Brown became the general secretary of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in 1950.
Brown was elected to the Saskatchewan Legislature in 1952 and served as a CCF Member for the Last Mountain constituency until 1964. Brown served in the T. C. Douglas and Woodrow Lloyd Governments as Provincial Secretary (1956-1957); Minister of Travel and Information (1957-1960); Minister of Industry and Information (1960-1964) and Minister in Charge of Saskatchewan Power Corporation (1956-1964).
Following his defeat in the 1964 provincial election, Brown became Director of Organization for the federal New Democratic Party (NDP). After organizing the 1965 federal NDP election campaign, he resigned and moved to Estevan, Saskatchewan, where he owned several businesses and served as an alderman. Brown was elected as the NDP member for Souris-Estevan in the 1971 provincial election and served his constituency until his death in Regina on October 19, 1971.
Brown married Edith May Cummings on July 18, 1933. They had four children: Patsy, Judith, Russell and Deborah. Brown married his second wife, Lorie, after Edith Brown's death. He had two step-children: David and Alison.