Brown’s blended family
A colonel in the United States Army Reserves, Brown began his career in Maryland politics in 1998. He represented Prince George’s County for two terms in the House of Delegates, where he was Majority Whip. During his tenure in the State House — in 2004 — he served a tour of duty in Iraq.
Brown was elected lieutenant governor in 2006, and he and Gov. Martin O’Malley were re-elected in 2010.
He lives with his wife, Karmen Walker Brown, and their sons in Bowie — there is no official residence for the lieutenant governor. The couple married last year.
Walker Brown has a 13-year-old son, Anthony. Her first husband, a Prince George’s police corporal, was killed in a car accident 10 years ago. Brown and his first wife divorced in 2009, and they share custody of their two children: Rebecca, a freshman at University of Maryland, College Park, and Jonathan, who they adopted as a baby.
Rebecca lives on campus now, but the three kids are often together on weekends and vacations. The boys attend the same Catholic school and are both in 8th grade.
Brown is feeling fortunate that the children are getting along. “They’re such good kids,” he says.
It helps that the boys have known each other for four years.
Even before the wedding, Brown says, “Jonathan and I were talking about who his friends were. And he was naming them. I said, ‘What about Anthony?’ And he said, ‘He’s not just a friend. He’s my brother.'”
The boys play sports year-round. Anthony plays soccer; Jonathan plays baseball.
“They love for you to watch,” Brown says.
And Brown does as often as he can. One of his favorite moments came after Jonathan made an outstanding play on the baseball field, but stopped midway to make sure his dad had seen it.
“He’s a very involved parent,” says Jerry Boden, who grew up in the same upstate New York neighborhood as Brown and later served as his chief of staff. “You can tell how much he cares. At meetings, he’ll mention Jonathan’s baseball game or math grade, or Rebecca’s new job… or making it to one of Anthony’s soccer games. They’re forefront on his mind.”
Brown’s family experiences have, on occasion, influence his politics. He has been a vocal advocate for adoption and reducing the number of children in foster care. After the birth of their daughter, the lieutenant governor and his first wife decided to take in a foster baby who later became their son.
“I think about the decision to adopt, that we were able to adopt, that the timing worked out. I can’t tell you how thankful I am,” Brown says. “He’s such a sweet boy.”
While some politicians involve their children in campaigning — even going so far as to knock on voters’ doors with the kids — Brown says the kids are focused on school and sports.
They’ve had fun at inauguration parties and the occasional parade, but Brown says, family political events are pretty rare.
Of course, there are occasions when business is mixed with pleasure.
The three kids have enjoyed summer trips when conferences were held in Ocean City. They are pretty typical kids — they like to ride bikes, play at the beach, and crab on the Chesapeake Bay, the couple says.
But Jonathan may have gotten a little carried away with his Maryland pride, Brown says: “He wants us to buy a commercial crab pot.”
The family also skis together, in both Pennsylvania and western Maryland.
“Rebecca is really good,” Brown brags. “She has poise and grace on the slopes.”
She’s missed at home these days, Brown says. But he’s trying to encourage her to stay on campus in these early months to foster independence. But he also likes that “she’s so close to home.” Walker Brown and the boys recently attended a soccer game with her on campus.
Texting to stay in touch
A Comcast executive, Walker Brown works full-time but her office is nearby, so it’s easy for her to meet the boys after school or at dinner.
The couple text and call the kids to stay in touch. And, Brown says, “There’s plenty of the old-fashioned yelling up the stairs.”
“I like to touch base — ‘Let’s take a look at that homework,'” Brown says.
He actually enjoys math homework while Walker Brown gives the help with English assignments. She’s also the pro when it comes to projects and posters. The boys like this about her, she says with a smile.
Saturday nights have become their family night. The boys usually vote to go out for dinner at Chili’s.
“It’s always Chili’s,” says Walker Brown, laughing.
That’s not to say that everyone agrees about everything, the couple acknowledges as they sit side by side on a couch in their home.
Any time families blend, differences inevitably surface. For example, Jonathan isn’t allowed to have a television in his room. Anthony is.
“You have to make those adjustments,” says Brown. “We sat down and talked about why we had the rule we have… In the end, Jonathan said he was fine with not having television in his room.”
(They usually watch sports downstairs in the basement family room anyway.)
When a scheduling or another kind of conflict arises, Brown and his first wife take the lead for Jonathan; Walker Brown for Anthony.
Not everything can be resolved, though. For example, there’s Walker Brown’s steadfast allegiance to the Cowboys, to the chagrin of the Redskins fans in the house.
Despite the occasional ribbing, the transition has been easy overall. “That’s been the biggest surprise. You expect some challenges, but there haven’t been very many,” Walker Brown says.
The piece of advice that’s come in most handy and is most often used keeping up with the campaign schedule, two active teenagers and a college freshman?
Walker Brown doesn’t hesitate: “Maintain a sense of humor.”
Photo above: Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthonly Brown and his family in their Bowie kitchen. Courtesy of the Brown family.