- By Jason Dougas Lewis
- In Local Legends
Bodybuilder John Brown grew up in Compton, and he went on to win two Mr. Universe and three Mr. World championships.
John Brown won the Mr. Universe title in 1981 and 1982, and he was one of the biggest stars in bodybuilding over the course of his career.
Equanimeous St. Brown is taking after his father. He is heading into his junior year at Servite High School, and standing at 6-4, 190 lbs., he is one of the strongest receivers around through the weight training that he does with his father. Photo by Jason Lewis
Article originally published in the Los Angeles Sentinel. www.lasentinel.net
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor (2010-2013)
While growing up in Compton, John Brown had the drive to be the best in the world, and he wanted to totally dominate his opponents. At an early age he figured out that to control his own athletic destiny, he would have to compete in an individual sport to achieve his goals.
"I had a problem with football because we kept losing every game (at Compton Dominguez High School)," Brown said. "I would prepare myself by lifting weights to be a better football player. One day somebody saw me in the park with my shirt off and was asking questions about what sport I was in. I told him football, and he told me that I should be in body building, and not football because of my physique. I looked into it and felt that it would be better for me to be in an individual sport instead of a team sport because I did not feel comfortable with 10 other guys having my fate in their hands."
Brown first became interested in weight lighting when he was 14-years-old. He loved to read comic books, and he wanted to look as great as the super heroes that he was reading about.
As a high school athlete, Brown had a drive to be the best that is rarely found in teenagers. By 16-years-old he was competing in the Mr. Watts contest, which did not have age groups, so he was competing against grown men. He ended up taking 3rd place in the contest, beating out several men who had been competing at the sport for years.
From that point on Brown dedicated himself to the sport. Equipment was limited, so he made a bench press out of wood and nails. He would collect weights that people in his community were not using, and he would read muscle magazines to educate himself on how to get bigger and stronger. At times he was able to workout at Compton Community College.
Brown became a star on the local circuit, so he moved on to the state and region level. He competed in the Western Mr. America and the Mr. America competitions. He would go on to win the Mr. Universe title in 1981 and 1982, and he won the Mr. World title three times. His career took him around the world several times, and he competed in Germany so much that he learned the language.
Brown had a simple motto.
"My motto was to outwork everybody," Brown said. "I concentrated on outworking everybody on the planet, period. No one, nobody would ever outwork me. I promised myself that. My work ethic was the key. I wanted to be number one. I knew everybody's stats. I knew their size, I knew how strong they were. I knew how much they worked out. I knew everything about my opponent. And I doubled it. Because I didn't want to compete. I wanted to walk on stage and they look at me and go, 'Okay, it's obvious, that's the winner, you can stand to the side, now lets let these other guys compete.' I didn't want to compete. I was trained to annihilate these guys."
Brown did not let any obstacle stand in his way, including racism. There were a number of black bodybuilders competing, but he still felt that they were given an unfair deal compared to white athletes, and he felt that the problems that he faced were mostly in this country.
"In Europe, we were treated better than we were here," Brown said. "We were big time celebrities. I mean big time. Here in America, it was just different. We still suffered from a lot of racism."
Brown was approached to pose for a popular muscle magazine, and he had to fight to get the same exposure that the white athletes were getting.
"I told him that I wanted to be on the cover," Brown said. "If I'm not on the cover then I'm not going to do it. He came back to me because the owner said that he can't do it. I asked why not, but he did not want to tell me. I go, 'tell me.' He said, 'okay, it's because you're black.' And he thought that if I was on the cover, his sale would go down. And that's in the mid-80s. It was ridiculous."
After Brown's refusal to have his photos taken for the magazine, the owner decided to run him on the cover because he was one of the biggest stars in the sport.
"Here in America, racism was crazy," Brown said. "It was really bad here. I'm not saying that there was no racism in Europe, but, the relationship to bodybuilding was crazy compared to Europe. In Europe, I never had a confrontation. They always wanted to put me on the cover of a magazine. I was treated like a king there."
Today Brown spends times training his three children, and he has one son that college football scouts are hot after. Equanimeous St. Brown is heading into his junior season at Servite High School, and the offense will feature him this coming season as a wide receiver. Standing at 6-4, 190 lbs., scouts do not even need to see him play to know that they want to recruit him.
Brown trains his son on weights four times a week, and they typically go heavy. The results have produced a kid that defensive backs at the high school level simply cannot handle.
"The kids who try to guard him, they see him and they think that he has good size, but they don't realize how strong he is until they get on him," Brown said. "When they start pushing and shoving they realize that he's strong. His high school coach is shocked that he is one of the strongest guys on the team."
Brown has passed on his work ethic and knowledge on getting big and strong to his son, who will more than likely play at a big time university. Brown is as dedicated to his children as he was to his sport, which will allow them to succeed on the same level that he did.