Ellison Brown was a Narragansett man who won the Boston Marathon twice and was among runners to dominate his sport in the 1930s. Brown’s grandson Michael Monroe spoke with The Public’s Radio South County Bureau Reporter Alex Nunes about his late grandfather’s life and running career. MONROE: The man had a unique physique. If you ever just seen his body, he was made to run.

NUNES: Did you ever get to see him run in a race, or was he older at that point?

MONROE: He was older at that point. To be honest with you, Gramp didn't really share a lot about his running days. I think there was good and there was bad in it. And he would just advise us one thing: be your own person, and have a heart at whatever you do. So, [I] never really questioned him. I felt like if he was going to let us know, he'd tell us himself.

NUNES: Why do you think he didn't want to talk about it? 

MONROE: At that time, it wasn't a good time to be an Indian, to be honest with you. In that time frame, they was doing a lot of things to us. We didn't really exist at that time. But I believe Gramp, like I said, was a unique person, and there was nobody like him, from what I could see, and there was nobody that could do the things that he could do.

NUNES: I did a bit of reading on your grandfather before the interview, and it seemed like he was a really interesting guy, like a fun guy. He would run barefoot sometimes. There's a story that he jumped into a lake during the Boston Marathon, that he would eat hot dogs before the race and drink milkshakes.

MONROE: Oh, yeah. That's exactly Gramps. And I used to watch the stories of boxers eating the raw eggs. Gramp would eat a raw egg like nothing every morning. There’d be things he’d do you wouldn’t believe.NUNES: What are some fond memories that you have of just being with your grandfather?

MONROE: Growing up, I lived in Peacedale. And the area where I grew up there was running water and stuff like that. But in the area [where my grandfather lived] they didn't have much, man. They didn't have running water, bathroom. I remember going down, getting water off the brook, or going outside, or going to look for some mushrooms or something. But the fondest thing was about how my grandfather took me out and taught me what we can do off the land; how you can survive off the land; during the seasons, what food you can get; how you can survive this way and appreciate it; and take what you need. And that's how he lived. He didn't have a lot. He had what he had in his heart and himself.

NUNES: Was his connection to the Narragansett Tribe very important to him?

MONROE: He always was a Narragansett—always was a Narragansett, still to this day. I think my grandfather put the Narragansett Tribe on the map. At the time, during his winning, it probably was a good moment, proud moment for him, because he knew who he was representing. Like I said, it wasn't a good time at the time to be an Indian. So, I believe what he did brought a lot of recognition back to the Narragansett Indian Tribe. And at that time, when he was doing all this, it was some tough times.NUNES: Is running a tradition in the Narragansett Tribe?

MONROE: At the time, it was. I know my uncle also completed the Boston Marathon. But not as big as it should be. And I'm in the process of looking at bringing a running program to the Narragansett Indian Tribe in honor of my grandfather. I'm looking at trying to bring something that my grandfather enjoyed, and I believe it'd be a good avenue for kids to enjoy to keep them healthy, give them a place to be, especially in our situations—a place where they can come and feel comfortable and be free and run. You know, running’s good. 

NUNES: With your grandfather being honored this year, I'm sure a lot more people will hear his story. What do you want them to take away from learning about your grandfather?

MONROE: If you work hard, anything can be accomplished. Who would think a Narragansett Indian could go into the Boston Marathon and win it twice? We have our own Narragansett Indian from the state of Rhode Island that won the Boston Marathon and represented this state in the Olympics, so anything's possible.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Monroe spoke with South County Bureau Reporter Alex Nunes about his grandfather Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, two-time winner of the Boston Marathon. The Boston Athletic Association is honoring Brown this weekend on the 85th anniversary of his first marathon victory.]

Alex Nunes can be reached at anunes@thepublicsradio.org.