Richard Browning is a familiar face at Athens Academy.
Browning, whose official title includes transportation and custodial staff along with athletic maintenance, can be seen working primarily around the athletic facilities at Athens Academy. He has been at the school for 19 years.
“I love what I do. I love working with athletics,” Browning said. “I love athletics. I considered myself athletic when I was growing up. I love being around athletics. I love working with kids. I love being around kids. I enjoy being here. That is what keeps me going.”
Browning is one of seven siblings in his family. He said loving people working with kids goes back to his parents and his upbringing.
“They always instilled in us to love everyone and be respectful and at Athens Academy, I see a lot of that,” Browning said. “That is what interests me – my love of people. I try to love everyone and be respectful.
“I have so much respect. I guess I can thank my upcoming and my religion and what goes around comes around. My love for everyone else comes back to me. That’s the way I look at it.”
“The kids love him. The little kids call him Mr. Richard. When I posted a picture of him on his birthday on my Instagram or twitter, the comments rolled. Everybody loves him.” – athletic director Kevin Petroski
Browning attended high school at Oconee County in the early 1970s.
“There were a few other integrated kids that was there before me but not many,” Browning said. “That was challenging to me. It was something getting used to. I was right in the middle of all of that when they integrated the schools. After getting up there, everything worked out for me. I was the first black athlete to be in the senior superlative. I won most athletic in 1973 in my senior class. It was very special to me.”
Prior to attending Oconee County, he was at Ed Stroud School on Colham Ferry Road.
“It was the black school at the time. I remember going to school there,” Browning said. “Then we integrated the school in ‘69. I am very fortunate and grateful to be a part of it and be able to live to tell about it. I have a lot of friends and family friends that are not here today able to tell the story.”
After graduating from Oconee County, he started working for the school system doing work with the facilities.
In 1998 he started to work at Athens Academy but in 2003, he went to Lowe’s to work as a delivery driver.
“I was gone about a year or two and came back here and have been here ever since. I am very happy,” Browning said. “I was a delivery truck driver and they decided they were going to privatize their delivery. After they privatized their delivery, I went to third shift for a while working night stocking. The opening came up here as a bus driver. I came back as a bus driver and also had the opportunity to come back full-time.”
“Mr. Richard and I have grown into close friends over my four years in high school. At first he was just another friendly face on the campus always smiling, but through basketball and football I was able to grow closer. He would always come to basketball practice to crack jokes with us players as well as Coach Banks. Eventually, I grew close enough with him to ask him if he could open the gym for me every morning during basketball season at 6:30. From here, we have shared many good memories and he will always be someone I can count on for support.” – 2017 grad Jacob Hudson
“Mr. Richard is very supportive of the basketball team and always gives us encouraging words before and after games and even when he is in the gym during practices. This makes the players on the team always feel good knowing he’s there for us. – senior Maddie McCleary
Browning is well known in the athletic community. He was a former athlete and basketball official. Athletic director Kevin Petroski joked that Browning loves to give advice to coaches.
“He likes to give, especially the basketball coaches, advice on the good and bad of what is going on because he claims to have been a basketball star at Oconee County when he was younger,” Petroski jokes.
Petroski said Browning is someone who does his job without complaining.
“It is very seldom he comes to me with a complaint about something that either our coaches haven’t done or athletes haven’t done as far as leaving the facility one way or the other,” Petroski said. “To be honest, he is right when he brings those things to my attention. In a lot of ways it is to preserve the longevity of the facility. He has the school’s best interest at heart and wants to be sure that everything is maintained and well-kept because it is a reflection upon him. He takes pride in what he is doing.”
Having someone like Browning is a “huge relief” to Petroski knowing everything with the facilities will be taken care of and prepared for events.
“And whenever there is something I want him to focus on, he is always quick and willing to do it. Most of the time, he has already had that on his list of things to do,” Petroski said. “Having that designated person that I can count on has been a huge help to me. The first couple of years, that may not have been the case completely. Richard’s role has evolved into more athletics than anything else that he does. From that standpoint, it has a consistency.”
“Richard Browning has the sports knowledge of a coach, passion of a fan, and the personality of a great friend. His fun-loving attitude has brought so many smiles to the faces of Spartan players, parents and coaches. My 3-year-old son thinks ‘Mr. Richard’ is one of the coolest guys in the world, and I would definitely agree. We are so thankful for all his hard work, and very blessed to call him friend.” – baseball head coach Casey Kane
Browning is married with two daughters. He has been married to his wife Mary for 34 years. He was 24 when he first saw her at one of his softball games.
“From the time I laid eyes on her, I said, ‘She’s the one.’ I saw her at a club one night and I knew I had seen her somewhere. I said, ‘That’s the young lady that came to our ball game,’” Browning said. “I approached her. I will never forget. I asked her to dance with me. It was a slow song that was playing. She was very cautious. She was a good girl. I asked her to slow dance with me and she said no. That hurt me so bad. My friends, I will never forget, they were standing back and looking. I told them I was going to ask her to dance and they said she is not going to dance with you. I said, ‘OK watch this.’ I went and asked her to dance and she said no. I looked back over my shoulder and all of my friends were laughing. I got on one bended knee, figuratively speaking, and she finally got up and danced with me. After that, it was on. After that we started to date.”
Browning’s youngest brother George has two sons. One of them, Tyson, was a star athlete at Oconee County and played football at the University of Georgia.
“It was very heartwarming to see him,” Browning said. “Tyson’s older brother was very athletic too. He played his high school ball in Fayetteville, NC. Tyson was up there also but he moved back to Georgia. To see him accomplish what he accomplished at Oconee County, he set about every record to be set and probably still has some standing. For him to go to Georgia, it was something he wanted to do as a child. He was able to do that and we still live that on a high because he was the first Browning to go play sports at a major college. It is heartwarming.”
“Richard epitomizes the ideals of Athens Academy. He works diligently behind the scenes in so many ways and is a blessing to our children and our family. My four children have always known that he is close by and watching out for anything they may need – even when they don’t realize they need the help! He has a smile and a hello from the early morning workouts, to the bus rides, through the school day and into the activities and sports late at night – he is a fan of all of the kids at Athens Academy and is always there to support them in whatever they are doing. – Athens Academy parent Scott Reynolds
Browning, 62, said he plans on working five more years. He said his favorite thing about working at Athens Academy is the environment.
“One of my coworkers here called me Mr. Athens Academy. He called me Mr. Athens Academy because of my love for the school here. I got a kick out of that,” Browning said. “I love coming to work every day. I know I will be sad when those five years are up because I am here most all of the time. When athletics are going on, I am here. A lot of parents ask, ‘Do you ever get time off?’ I love being here. I am here doing what I love – watching sports and being around the kids – so I don’t get tired of it. I put in a lot of hours. Having said that, it is something I enjoy doing.”
“Richard is fun to work with. He always has a smile on his face and is quick to tell a joke. Richard is an asset to our community and athletic programs. He is always dependable and dedicated to his work. He is a true Spartan!” – football head coach Josh Alexander
“I am a trekkie, there was an episode of Star Trek that reminds me of Richard Browning. Will Crusher was going off to Star Fleet academy, Capt. Picard said he wanted Will to visit his mentor, who he believes is the wisest man at Star Fleet Academy, saying his mentor has helped numerous captains and admirals get through the academy with his advice and insight, Will Crusher then said what course does he teach, what department does he run? Capt. Picard looks at him with a slight snarl and said, he is the groundskeeper. That is my observation of Richard Browning! The wisest man on campus, he does not teach a course or run a department but countless Athens Academy students, faculty and staff through the years have benefited from his advice and wisdom. He dispenses advice with humor “Always on the job!” – track and field head coach Neville Anderson
“Richard is a part of Athens Academy and doesn’t just work at the school. He’s invested in the student-athlete’s total life and encourages them with their academics, athletics and other aspects of their lives.” – girls’ varsity basketball coach Brian Olson
“The respect and honesty is huge. He is very respectful and honest. He has a great sense of humor. He is kind-hearted. We all know how hard working he is. After a whole day of work he drives a bus route and then comes back to cheer on the athletes.” - athletic administrative assistant Virginia Stutsman