Courtesy of Bill Mullins, here’s some more about the “Baseball Funster,” Elias Bryant, a.k.a. “Circus Country Brown,” or just “Country Brown.”
First: it turns out that Bryant was also a basketball clown:
How much of this he did I don’t know—just about everything else I’ve seen is just about his baseball career.
Next, a great action shot of Bryant’s on-field comedy act:
That’s Chappie Johnson (manager of the opposing team) standing, Bryant sprawled on the ground, and a random kid from the crowd throwing water on Bryant. In case the caption doesn’t enlarge enough to read, here’s what it says:
“Circus Country Brown, the comedian with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, claimants of the world’s champion negro baseball team, gave the spectators at the game between the Giants and Chappie Johnson’s Negro All-Stars plenty of laughs yesterday at Long Branch [Park].
“Brown shot craps, pretended shaving himself with a two-foot razor, gave a talk on the telephone and also did a boxing act all by himself in which he delivered a knockout blow on his chin which made him fall in a heap on the ground. All this occurred on the first base line.
“In the picture is shown a young boy throwing a glass of water on Brown as he is on the ground. This was not part of the act, but some of the Chappies who knew that Brown was going to fall flat on his back gave the youngster a cup of water and told him to throw it on Brown. The comedian took it good-naturedly and made it appear as if he did not mind it. Brown’s antics pleased the crowd immensely.”
A few years later, Bryant took another fall, but this time he didn’t get up. I probably shouldn’t have referred so glibly to his “murder” the other day. The New York Age put a more detailed account of his death on its front page:
(New York Age, January 1, 1938, p. 1)
If there is any truth in this, it does seem that the death was more accidental than not. It appears likely that Terrell may not have spent much (if any) time in jail; just four months later he was married (to one Estelle Taylor):
(New York Age, April 16, 1938, p. 5)
This couple can be seen in the 1940 census, living on West 134th Street in Harlem (with six-month-old twins, a boy and a girl). The fact that Terrell was married so soon after the incident in which Bryant died confirms that Terrill was the brother of Bryant’s wife (rather than being married to a sister of Bryant), meaning that Edna Bryant’s maiden name was Terrell.
In the same census, on West 130th Street , resides Edna Bryant, “Negro,” widowed, 41, born in Georgia. Unfortunately her occupation isn’t given, though she was evidently accepting lodgers.
Edna may have been Bryant’s second wife. In a Georgia Deaths database I was able to find a record for an African American woman named Stately Bryant, whose husband was named Elias Bryant. Stately passed away on January 12, 1921, in Atlanta, Georgia—where Bryant the ballplayer had recently been attending Morris Brown College.