Most inductees to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame are chosen because of their impact upon their state, or even the nation. Some, however, have such a pervasive and beneficial impact on their community or region that their life and work demand induction. Carlton Brownell is such a person. His impact upon Little Compton and “Scunnet” generally, has been enormous. This area consisting of Little Compton and Tiverton ” once the domain of the Sakonnet tribe ” has never had a more persistent and effective supporter. Carlton was born in Little Compton in 1917 in a house built by his great-great grandfather in 1804. He attended a local one-room school house and then ventured out to Hope High School in Providence, boarding with relatives, and on to the University of Rhode Island where he earned a bachelors degree in 1939 as a history major. Later Carlton got a masters degree from Rhode Island College and did additional graduate work at the University of Maine, the University of New Hampshire, and Oxford University. Carlton enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served four years in the infantry. He was awarded the Victory Medal, two campaign ribbons, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. (1917-2013) After World War II, Carlton taught school in New Hampshire before being recalled for military service in the Korean War. After his discharge he taught in the Tiverton school system from 1952-1977 and chaired the High School Social Studies Department for the last 15 of those years. Carlton was a student of early American buildings and furnishings, and for several summers he conducted furniture restoration courses as part of the Sakonnet Seminars. He not only restored numerous historical buildings in Little Compton and Tiverton, for 50 years he also operated a small farm on West Main Road where he raised sheep. Carltons knowledge of his hometown was deep and encyclopedic. Joan Lisle, author of The History of Little Compton, paid tribute to his advice in the preparation of her book: “Whoever writes about Little Compton stands on his shoulders.” Carlton was a true civic leader serving on a myriad of local boards and commissions as chairman, director, or trustee. His work with the public library that bears his family’s name and with the Tiverton Historical Society is particularly noteworthy. Of all his interests, however, Carlton put the most effort into the Little Compton Historical Society where he restored the Wilbor House along with five other buildings on the property and the Friends Meeting House. The Historical Society’s antique collection which ranges from horse-drawn vehicles, to photographs, to furnishings was mainly gathered by Mr. Brownell. At his 90th birthday celebration the Wilbor House and Friends Meeting House were added to the National Register of Historic Places. Carlton’s lifetime labor of love for Little Compton and Tiverton ended with his death on February 6, 2013. With no wife or children, he had showered his time and affection upon his community.
Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame
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