Sally Brown: Force of Nature

Sally Brown Biography

Editor's Note: Sally Brown: Force of Nature is a 2006 KET production.

Daughter of an Army general, Sara Shallenberger Brown grew up around the world. Amid political turmoil in Greece, she befriended Prince Nicholas’ children, and the family lived in Austria when Chancellor Dolphus was assassinated and the Nazis were threatening to invade.

An accomplished artist, she graduated from Sweet Briar College with a degree in fine arts with an emphasis in painting. In 1935, she married W.L. Lyons Brown, who became president of Brown-Forman Corporation in 1945 and chairman in 1951. The couple had four children: W.L. Lyons “Lee” Brown Jr. (former ambassador to Austria), Martin Shallenberger Brown (past president of Jack Daniels Distillery), Owsley Brown II (current chairman and former CEO of Brown-Forman), and Ina Brown Bond (Mrs. Allen McKee Bond III, a member of the Brown-Forman board of directors and board chair of the Muhammad Ali Center).

Brown has been involved in a number of national and global organizations, including the United Nations Conference on World Population and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Here in Kentucky, her endeavors include Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill; Louisville’s Waterfront Park, and the 600-acre Sally Brown State Nature Preserve; located along the Kentucky River Palisades in Central Kentucky.

Sally Brown

Biographical Data

  • Sara Shallenberger Brown
  • Born Valdez, Alaska, April 14, 1911; died April 30, 2011, Louisville
  • Daughter of Brig. General Marin Conrad Shallenberger and Ina Hamilton Dowdy


  • A.B. Sweet Briar College, 1932
  • Corcoran School of Art, Washington, DC
  • Columbus School of Art, Columbus, Ohio
  • Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Austria
  • ABA Novak School of Painting, Budapest, Hungary
  • Norton Gallery of Art, Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Transylvania University Doctorate of Humane Letters


  • Secretary and founder of W.L. Lyons Brown Foundation
  • Preserver and protector of air, water, and land for many organizations
  • Lecturer on conservation and horticulture
  • Fund raiser for educational, historical preservation, and environmental organizations
  • Breeder of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Artist and designer
  • Past owner of Ashbourne Farms, Oldham County, Ky.
  • Breeder of cattle (pure-bred Shorthorns)
  • Breeder of Thoroughbreds
  • Grower of corn and hay

Service on Kentucky Boards

  • Founder of Open House in Kentucky, statewide tours of houses and gardens, 1947-1950
  • Founder of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, 1944-1950
  • Mayor’s Advisory Committee, Louisville, 1950-1955
  • Junior League of Louisville, Board Member, Chairman of Children’s Theater
  • Historic Homes Inc., Louisville, 1960-1971
  • Locust Grove, Louisville, Board of Directors 1957-1970, grounds chairman during restoration of garden
  • Louisville and Jefferson County Planning Commission, 1978-1982, four years vice chairman
  • Founder of River Fields
  • United Way, Special Gifts Committee, Louisville, 20-year service
  • Kentucky Nature Conservancy
  • Bingham Advisory Board of Transylvania University
  • Chairman, Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, appointed by three successive governors
  • Louisville Central Area
  • Downtown Waterfront Development
  • Shakertown at Pleasant Hill
  • Speed Art Museum board member
  • Downtown Development Committee, Louisville, four-year term
  • Transylvania University
  • Kentucky Opera (Emeritus)
  • Louisville Ballet
  • Actors Theatre of Louisville (Arts in Louisville)

Service on National Boards

  • Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Mass., trustee
  • Student Conservation Association
  • Audubon Society Board Member, 1986-1993
  • The Nature Conservancy, Board of Governors, 1970-1976, Governor Emeritus
  • National Parks and Conservation Association 1970-1993, Emeritus
  • Kenmore Association, Fredericksburg, Va., Committee of Regents
  • Sweet Briar College, member, Board of Overseers and Board of Directors, 1945-1965; Development Committee chairman
  • Trust for Public Land
  • Monticello Cabinet, Charlottesville, Va.
  • American Farmland Trust
  • Scenic America
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Wildlife Productions, Inc.
  • The Garden Club of America: 35 years, 1966-2001
    • Zone Chairman—Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, 1966-1968
    • Chairman, Admissions Committee, 1968-1971
    • Chairman, Conservation Committee, 1971-1973
    • Chairman, National Affairs and Legislation Committee, 1973-1975
    • Vice President, 1975-1977
    • Advisor, national affairs and legislation, 1977-2001
    • Received the Conservation Award, Frances Hutchinson, 1978
  • Natural Resources Defense Council, President’s Council
  • World Wildlife Fund, National Council
  • Fairchild Tropical Garden, Coconut Grove, Fla., 1975-1992
  • Botanical Foundation
  • Montgomery Foundation, 1992-1994
  • Leadership Council of Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
  • Americans for Alaska (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)
  • Jefferson Scholars Selection Committee, University of Virginia
  • Henry Francis du Pont Award Committee
  • Collectors Circle Committee, Winterthur Museum

Service in World Conferences

  • Delegate to U.N. Conference on World Population, Bucharest, Romania, 1974
  • Delegate to International Union for Conservation and Nature, 1974
  • Delegate to U.N. Conference on Nature (IUCN) at Kinshasa, Zaire
  • Delegate to U.N. Conference on World Population, Mexico, 1984

Personal Data

  • Wife of W.L. Lyons Brown, from 1935 until his death in 1973
  • Chairman of the Board of Brown-Forman Corporation, 1960-1973
  • Four Children:
    • W.L. Lyons Brown Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Austria, 2001-2005
    • Martin Shallenberger Brown
    • Owsley Brown II, CEO and Chairman of Brown-Forman Corporation
    • Ina Brown Bond (Mrs. Allen McKee Bond III), Chairman, Muhammad Ali Center
  • 12 grandchildren
  • 29 great-grandchildren


  • Garden Club of America Frances K. Hutchinson Award for National Service in Conservation
  • The Nature Conservancy Oak Leaf Award
  • National Parks and Conservation Association National Award
  • Sweet Briar College Outstanding Alumnae Award for Recognition of Service to the College
  • National Audubon Society Highest Achievement Award
  • Garden Club of Palm Beach Conservation Award
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation (to Brown family)
  • Honored for restoration of W.L. Lyons Brown Theater
  • Louisville Waterfront Silver Anchor Award
  • Natural Resources Defense Council Forces for Nature Award, 2003
  • Present with President Jimmy Carter at the signing of the Alaska National Interest Lands Act, 1980