LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) – Well-known Louisville philanthropist Owsley Brown Frazier died Thursday at his home. He was 77-years-old. His name is seen all around Louisville and there’s no doubt he left a tremendous legacy. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars for healthcare, education, and the arts. But, to those who loved him and those who worked with him for years, he was so much more than the money he gave.
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“I was shocked when I heard it. I know he’s been ill, but he’s, you know, he’s such a special man and what a terrible loss for this community,” Kentucky Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson said.
Frazier’s health had been failing for months, but news of his passing was still a blow to his friends and family and the community he loved so much.
Bellarmine president Joseph McGowan said, “I knew something was serious to be called from a meeting. And, I thought, it was a member of my family, and it turned out that it was. That’s how I felt about Owsley and he felt that way about me.”
The Frazier family name marks buildings across Louisville.
“For the Louisville community, his legacy is amazing. He has raised more than $500 million over the last 30 to 40 years, primarily for educational institutions, but also for the Frazier Rehab Center,” Brown Forman spokesman Phil Lynch said. “All you have to do is go to the University of Louisville campus or you go to the Bellarmine campus, and you’ll find buildings and facilities named for Frazier, Owsley Frazier because of the money he raised. He was a great community philanthropist and he will be greatly missed.”
Healthcare, education, and the arts; Frazier was committed to using his wealth to better Louisville and all of Kentucky. He helped grow his family’s company, Brown Forman, into an international corporation. When he retired in 2000, he threw his passion and financing behind the Frazier History Museum, creating one of the best tourist and educational facilities this area has to offer.
“There’s so many things that create an enhanced quality of life here in this community that you can directly connect to Owsley Frazier,” Abramson explained.
In one year, he gave over a quarter of a million dollars to the UofL marching band. They thanked him with a performance just for him. That was in 2006. At the time, Frazier said he was, “just high as a kite to have the experience of the band coming down and playing.” He called the experience, “kind of awesome.”
But, to those who knew him best, Owsley Brown Frazier was so much more than the money he gave. “That was just an outward manifestation of a tremendous intellect and a big heart,” McGowan, Bellarmine president, said. “A man with a very serious educational vision and a very serious human vision of what people are and what they can be and what education was in making them become the people they could be.”
“He’s been active and cared about his home state and his home community in a way that is so special and I’m not sure you can ever fill that void that we now have without having Owsley as a part of the community,” Abramson said.
Frazier was committed, to his state, to his community, to changing lives for the better and he showed that by giving, of himself, of his wealth, from his heart.
According to the Frazier History Museum, Louisville philanthropist Owsley Brown Frazier has died. We are told that he passed away at his home Thursday afternoon.
Frazier also was the founder of the successful Frazier International History Museum in downtown Louisville. It houses many weapons from his vast private collection.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer released the following statement:
“Owsley Brown Frazier had a profound impact on Louisville. His legacy is evident across our city, from his leadership at Brown-Forman to the scholarships he created and the programs he endowed at the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University to his creation of the Frazier History Museum. His generosity touched many people over several generations. The city is grateful for his many decades of dedication to making Louisville a greater community. My thoughts are with his family.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) sent this statement regarding Brown's passing:
“Owsley Brown Frazier will be missed, but his legacy will endure. He has left the community a far better place because of his leadership and generosity. He has our heartfelt thanks, and Kelley and I will keep his family in our prayers.”
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement regarding the passing of Owsley Brown Frazier:
“Elaine and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend Owsley Brown Frazier. Owsley was a stalwart industrialist and a proud Louisvillian. He was a loyal and generous supporter of the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University and an ardent community leader. Among his many contributions were his foresight in the creation of the Frazier History Museum, which put Louisville on the map as a repository of historical artifacts. Owsley will be deeply missed.”