Auburn women athletics’ first genuine star was Margaret “Cutie” Brown, an electrifying basketball player and captain at a time when women’s sports were anything but regular.
“The 1920s was the “Golden Decade of Sport” and reflected the Progressive era’s belief that exercise for women was “a means of achieving their ‘natural beauty.'” A Women’s Athletic Association was organized on campus, and a coed basketball team began playing an intercollegiate schedule.
Auburn’s male sports writers for the Orange and Blue outdid themselves in describing the court play of Margaret “Cutie” Brown, who was “the main cog in the Auburn machine,” along with Annie Creel. Caroline Elizabeth Drake remembered Cutie, a teammate of her sister Rosa, as a popular girl and a great point shooter. The team did well the winter of 1921, playing a number of area college and high school teams, but the spotlight at A.P.I. was not on women’s athletic endeavors but men’s, especially football, a sport that began at Auburn the same year women arrived.”
Margaret Brown was born in Kellyton, Ala. in 1902, the baby of 7. There were 4 boys and 3 girls.The child just older by two years to her was John Morgan Brown ’23. In 1915, her father Julian Alford Brown died, leaving Annie Hester Brown a widow with at least 3 children at home.
Not long after Julian Brown’s death, Margaret’s older brothers, Clyde Graham and Eugene McKinney, died within 6 weeks of each other — one 6, the other, 16.
Annie Brown struggled to make ends meet and soon after her husband died uprooted the family and moved to Auburn, Ala. Brown managed a boarding house for students.
Margaret enrolled at A.P.I., September 1921. While there, according to the year book, she was on the Co-ed basketball team 4 years, of which she was Captain for 2 years. The team was almost perfect the whole time she was on it.
“THESE STAR AUBURN CO-EDS HAVE HELPED TEAM TO GREAT CAGE RECORD DURING YEAR” (Leroy Simms, Huntsville Times)
“Led by Cutey Brown, one of the best all round girl basketball players in the South, the Auburn coeds have made and enviable record on the court during the year and are claiming first honors among the girls teams that play by boys rules. Mary Tamplin is a wonder shot and plays a beautiful floor game, while the work of young at center and guard has been a big factor in determining the success of her school colors in a number of the games played.
The girls from the village of the plains have beaten Birmingham- Southern coeds and Howard girls, as well as a number of other good combinations and feel they are capable of taking on any and all comers. In fact, they challenge any claimant in the state all over the South to combat mortal.
The sport is young at the village and the girls are considered to have made a good mark for the year. “
“AUBURN CO-EDS WIN HARD GAME FROM PANTHERS — Captain Brown Wins Battle by Tossing Goal In Extra Period” (The Orange & Blue)
“Captain ‘Cutie’ Brown, star center of the Auburn Tigerettes won a place beside Kirk Newell, John Emmett Pitts, Ed Shirling, and other immortals of the village of the plains when she tossed in a field goal from the middle of the BAC floor Friday night, with hardly more than a minute of the Auburn-Birmingham Southern game left. Close guarding on the part of Williams and Green had held the Tigers in check for the greater part of the contest and an extra period was necessary, the score being knotted at 8 all when the second half ended.
The final score, 10-8, was the result of the excellent playing of the guard of both teams, rather than slow work on the part of the forwards. Few shots were made from under the basket and it seemed for some time as if the close guarding of the Southernites would give them a victory.
Time after time, the Auburn guards would pass the ball down the court only to have the ever alert Panther guards get the ball and send it back up the court.
In final desperation, the Auburn quint began trying long shots and managed to keep the score even for most of the game, the count being tied when the final whistle blew. the extra period was a carbon copy of the first of the game, neither team being able to get a shot under the basket. With the previous seconds becoming fewer each time the watch ticked, Captain Cutie Brown obtained the ball and tossed a pretty one in from the middle of the court.
Southern was unable to hit the basket for the remainder of the game and the Tigerettes had continued their winning streak of more than two years’ duration. However, we venture to say, that in all their two years of playing the Auburn players have never had a harder, closer game than the one they finally copped Birmingham Athletic Club Friday night.”
Margaret “Cutie” Brown ’26
Auburn Co-Eds Triumph Over Pantherettes — PANTHERETTES BEATEN IN THRILLING CAGE GAME (The Birmingham News)
Miss Margaret Brown is Star of First Intercollegiate Girls’ Tilt Here.
“Birmingham basketball fans have been vamped, that is those who were fortunate enough to find a place to park their dogs at the Central YMCA Saturday night. When it comes to playing basketball, according to Brother Hoyle, the males will have to take a back seat and take lessons from the females. Minus frills and other feminine decorations, Auburn’s co-eds waltzed away with a 24-9 victory over Big Hoss Gandy’s fair collection of Birmingham-Southern tossers in a real bang-up game.”
“A paragraph should be given to every girl on both fives, detailing just how she starred, but time is fleeting with the dead hour on our neck.”
“Miss Margaret (Cutie is what they called her at Auburn) Brown was the leading lady of the show. She caged six field goals as neatly as any male performer ever looped a basket. Anna Pavlova could take a few lessons from her in the art of being graceful. The whole Auburn team seemed to work around her and not once did she fail to handle the ball like a young Apollo.”
She also joined the Dramatic Club 4 years; Home Economics Club 3 years; while a member of the Women’s Athletic Association 2 years, she was Vice President for one year; a member of the Chi Omega Sorority. Because of her bowed-legs, she was known as “Cutie” and from dance cards and attendance at or appearances in different plays, she was very well liked.
She was All-SEC Center and API was ALL SEC while she was there. She changed her major to Home Economics after a year or two. Brown graduated 1926 and went to teach at Thomasville High School in Georgia. They knew she had played basketball in college and, their girls’ coach having left, they asked her to coach their girls, which she did.
Margaret Brown married Bradley Fowlkes Lee Sept. 3, 1930 (he always said they’d married on Labor Day). She taught school in Perry County, Ala. and eventually became a Social Worker with the state of Alabama. They moved to Montgomery after 1940 and she started working with Montgomery County. Margaret and Bradley wanted children very much, but couldn’t seem to have them so they adopted ME September 21, 1945.
Margaret eventually went back to work as a social worker, then in the 1950’s, she worked both as a substitute teacher and a social worker.
Margaret Brown ’26, right, Pat Bayne, in 1967
During this time, she also helped start the United Way in Montgomery, was a member of the Garden Club, on the Board of the Humane Society and was a member of the Junior League. She was also active in Trinity Presbyterian Church.
In 1960, her husband, Bradley Lee, died suddenly, and she realized she needed to provide for both herself and her daughter.
In 1962, Margaret spent the summer at FSU working towards her Master’s Degree. She was 60 at the time, with a teenaged daughter. During the school year, she returned to Montgomery for her daughter’s senior year at Lanier High School. Summer of 1963, after her daughter’s graduation, Margaret returned to FSU and received her Graduate Certificate, enabling her to transfer from Montgomery County, Ala. to the State of Alabama, again placing children in foster homes and for adoption.
Her life’s work was making sure all children had clean, decent homes in which to live.
She always loved to watch basketball, baseball, and football on television. At 69 she could still shoot basketball shots from 10 feet.
One story I love and saw – she went to Stone Mountain, GA, to visit her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, Margaret. Margaret was 18 months old, still taking naps in the afternoon, and the neighbor boys wouldn’t stop playing basketball against the front door of the apartment.
Margaret or Ga-Ga, as she was known by her grandchildren, went outside and asked the boys if they would stop hitting the door with the ball if she made 20 shots from 10 feet away. Now picture this, a 69 year old, 5’4” tall, 130 lb, woman telling kids she can rim 20 balls from 10 feet. They said “sure” very sarcastically! They agreed, thinking no way! By the time she had hit 6 balls, their mouths were wide open and they applauded after the 20th one. By the time she was through, she had moved back to 15 feet.
In 1970, she retired after 25 years with the State of Alabama, but still gathered with her workmates for lunch on Saturday. I grew up with those ladies and one man, and loved them dearly.
She dearly loved Auburn, but her life’s work was children. In 1973, she went to the doctor about a cough and found out she had breast cancer. By the time they discovered it, time was short. My husband and I, with our daughter, Margaret, moved in with Mama. Our second child was born March 29, 1974, and Mama asked us to name him after Daddy, which we did.
Margaret Brown Lee died Friday, April 11, 1974, just two weeks after her grandson’s birth. She had lived 5 months after the cancer diagnosis.
As you can tell, we all loved Mama very much and we miss her still!
MaryBradley Lee Bayne — July 27, 2017