In Passing: Beatrice Brown (“Brownie”) Borden

By Montecito Journal   |   April 18, 2019

Beatrice Brown (“Brownie”) Borden, author and wildlife photographer, died peacefully on March 25, 2019 at her home in Montecito, California. She was 98.

Brownie traveled throughout the world with her late husband, noted naturalist, conservationist and filmmaker Dick Borden (1910-1999), documenting a wide variety of birds and animals. Together, the Bordens contributed to many theatrical films, including Walt Disney’s True Life Adventures and MGM’s The Sandpiper. In addition, their work was featured on National Geographic Specials, The Wonderful World of Disney, Sesame Street, NOVA, Make A Wish, and many other television programs. Dick and Brownie appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today Show. They were the producers and on-camera hosts for their own television series, Wonders of the Wild, which was syndicated in the United States, Canada, and 21 other countries and on The Discovery Channel.

Brownie volunteered for countless organizations and committees in the communities where she lived, including Greenwich, Connecticut; St. Paul, Minnesota; Concord, Massachusetts; Exuma, Bahamas; and Montecito. Most recently, she served on the board of directors of Direct Relief International in Santa Barbara and on various committees at the Casa Dorinda retirement community in Montecito.

Brownie was dedicated to the education of young people. It was her fervent hope that man will preserve our earth’s remaining wilderness areas and their magnificent wild animals. With this in mind, she authored the children’s book, Wild Animals of Africa (Random House 1982), and Kishindo – An African Journal (Lulu Press 2005).

Born March 9, 1921, Brownie was a daughter of Mary Allen and Lewis H. Brown, who was president and chairman of Johns-Manville from 1930 to 1951, founder and chairman of the American Enterprise Association (later the American Enterprise Institute), and co-founder and chairman of The Tax Foundation. She and her twin sister Mary (Griggs) made their debut in 1937. Brownie attended Rosemary Hall, Sweet Briar College and Stanford, married William H. Sweney, Jr. from St. Paul and later married Richard Borden.

Brownie is survived by: her children and step-children, Jane Borden Chermayeff of Darien, Connecticut (formerly of Santa Fe, New Mexico); Betsy Borden Carlson of Santa Barbara; Spencer Borden of Concord, Massachusetts; Beatrice (“Sandy”) Knox Johnston of Nantucket, Massachusetts and Santa Barbara; Patricia Sweney du Pont of Guilford, Connecticut; Bill Sweney of Jackson, Wyoming; Michael Sweney Borden of Hollywood, California; and John Sweney of Houston, Texas; 15 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and special companion Royal Peterson. She wished to express her thanks to the caring staff at Casa Dorinda who supported her so compassionately in recent years.

Donations in memory of Brownie Borden may be made to Direct Relief International at


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