Jacksonville's first known black architect, R. L. Brown, was born in poverty in 1854 in South Carolina. By the close of the Civil War, he had moved with his family to Florida, settling first in Lake City and then in Jacksonville. He learned to read and write at an early age, and his first job was at a printing company. After his marriage in 1875, this thrifty and talented man worked at several additional occupations, including carpenter, farmer, and minister. Brown was able to purchase several acres of land in East Jacksonville, including the site of the school that now bears his name. He served two terms in the Florida House of Representatives from 1881 to 1884. Employed for many years by the Duval County School Board to repair and construct schools, he became quite proficient at the building trade. One of his notable achievements was serving as contractor for Centennial Hall at Edward Waters College. Although he had no formal architectural training, by 1920 he was designing as well as constructing buildings and listing himself as an architect.