The Unsolved Death Of Alton Brown's Father

Alton Brown isn't exactly your typical celebrity chef. The "walking food dictionary," as Food Network has called him (via Food Network) flies planes, plays multiple musical instruments, and studied drama and film in college (via The New York Times). With his "restless, inquisitive mind and a chemist's rigor," Brown's location in the foodie universe is at the "intersection of food, science, history and theater," the Associated Press wrote of him in 2016. And apparently, Brown is well-aware he's not exactly typical. "I'm a freak," he revealed. "I don't fit in anywhere." 

It's always been that way for Brown, as he shared in a piece he wrote for The Wall Street Journal in 2016. Born in L.A., Brown moved with his family to Cleveland, Georgia when he was just 7 years old, and it was a difficult transition to a community where it wasn't unusual for children to go to school shoeless. "I knew I had crossed some cultural divide," Brown wrote. He had a pet possum, was addicted to Jacque Cousteau TV specials, and didn't leave his room for six months after his dad gave him the Beatles' "Sargeant Pepper" album. His dad, Alton Brown Sr., also gave him his first saxophone when Brown was 10. It was a meaningful gift to Brown because it said to him that his father understood and validated Brown's preference for "solitary" activities. Sadly, Brown's father died not long after — under mysterious circumstances that haunt Brown to this day.

Brown's father's mysterious death may never be solved

In 1972, when Brown was just 10 years old, his father was found dead, apparently of suffocation. Found seated at his desk, Brown Sr. had a plastic bag taped around his head. This death remains unsolved because law enforcement was never able to determine whether to classify it as homicide versus a suicide. However, Brown maintains that his father "was hardly the suicidal type," and may have been the victim of a murder plot orchestrated by his enemies.

Brown Sr. was a career media man who, after working in L.A. as an NBC account executive, purchased an AM radio station in Cleveland, Georgia. Brown Sr. also owned a "small newspaper in the next county," Brown wrote in an essay for The Wall Street Journal

It seems that young Brown was deeply connected to his father, who apparently empathized with his son's tendency toward doing things his own way. "I got beat up a lot because I couldn't keep my mouth shut," Brown wrote of his difficult transition from the big city to a small town. Apparently, Brown's father had similar issues and angered his own peers, presumably through his participation in the media. He "wound up pissing off the wrong people," Brown maintains.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.