LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Aug. 16, 2012) — Louisville news organizations are reporting the death today of prominent businessman and philanthropist Owsley Brown Frazier at age 77. He had been in declining health in recent years.
Frazier was vice chairman of Brown-Forman from 1983 until his retirement in 2000 but remained on the board of directors. He was the great-grandson of the founder of Brown-Forman, George Garvin Brown.
“I’m devastated at the passing of my dear and personal friend Owsley Brown Frazier,” said University of Louisville President James Ramsey in an item posted on the UofL website Thursday afternoon. “Neither the University of Louisville nor the citizens of our community had a better friend than Owsley. His service and incredible generosity to the university’s academic, research and athletic programs is well documented and leaves a lasting legacy to all of us, young and old. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Frazier made the largest donation to UofL in the school’s history in December. The $25 million gift brought to nearly $50 million the amount Frazier and his daughters gave to UofL.
“I give to the University of Louisville because I love it,” Frazier said at the time.
In recognition of his contributions to the university, UofL named its athletic complex on Floyd Street the Owsley Brown Frazier Cardinal Park. The College of Business building is named after his brother, the late Harry Frazier.
Frazier had a profound impact on Louisville, said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
“His legacy is evident across our city, from his leadership at Brown-Forman to the scholarships he created and the programs he endowed at the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University to his creation of the Frazier History Museum,” he said. “His generosity touched many people over several generations. The city is grateful for his many decades of dedication to making Louisville a greater community. My thoughts are with his family.”
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement Thursday regarding the passing of Owsley Brown Frazier:
“Elaine and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend Owsley Brown Frazier,” McConnell said. “Owsley was a stalwart industrialist and a proud Louisvillian. He was a loyal and generous supporter of the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University and an ardent community leader. Among his many contributions were his foresight in the creation of the Frazier History Museum, which put Louisville on the map as a repository of historical artifacts. Owsley will be deeply missed.”
Frazier began as a trainee at Brown-Forman in 1955 and became the company’s lawyer after graduating from the University of Louisville in 1960.He joined the board of directors and became director of personnel in 1964.
Frazier, as with other members of his family, is known for supporting UofL and other entities in Louisville. He founded what is now the Frazier History Museum on Main Street, which is noted for its extensive collection of arms such as Theodore Roosevelt’s “Big Stick,” a 1866 Winchester carbine owned by Buffalo Bill Cody and guns used by Gen. George Armstrong Custer.
Frazier owns Bittners LLC, a 150 year old interior design, architectural & furniture business in Louisville.
He has served as director of Greater Louisville Inc. and the Kentucky Economic Development Corp. He was an early co-chairman of the board to study building the KFC Yum! Center. He has also served on the board of Louisville-based Papa John’s Pizza.
Frazier was recognized as one of the leading individual donors to Bellarmine University, Kentucky Country Day school and the University of Louisville, of which he was a lifetime member of the Board of Trustees. His UofL contributions He is a leading donor to Jewish Hospital in Louisville, including the Frazier Rehab Institute, which is named after his mother.