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Owsley Brown Frazier, former vice chairman of Brown-Forman Corporation and well-known Louisville community philanthropist, died today after a long illness. He was 77 years old.
Owsley Brown Frazier served as an executive at Brown-Forman for 45 years and as a member of the board of directors for more than 40 years. He was elected vice chairman in 1983 and continued to serve in that role until his retirement from management in 2000. He remained a member of Brown-Forman’s board of directors until 2006.
Frazier’s legacy for the Brown-Forman community is his leadership and passion for corporate giving. For many years he spearheaded the company’s community outreach efforts – efforts that greatly improved the local neighborhoods around the company’s Louisville campus, as well as the region’s arts community, social services, and education.
Frazier was also owner and chairman of Bittners, LLC, an interior and commercial design firm, and after he retired from Brown-Forman on June 1, 2000, he immediately began laying the groundwork to open a history museum in downtown Louisville. The museum, now known as the Frazier International History Museum, opened in the spring of 2004, and has become one of the region’s premier tourist and educational attractions.
Perhaps Frazier’s greatest contributions to the Louisville community, however, were in his philanthropic endeavors, as he amassed an impressive public service record, raising more than $500 million over a 40-year period primarily for educational institutions in Kentucky. He was chairman of the University of Louisville Billion Dollar Campaign, chaired a $75 million campaign on behalf of the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute to construct a new state-of-the-art facility, and led an $18 million building campaign at the University of Louisville for a natatorium and swimming complex.
Most recently, Frazier donated $25 million to the University of Louisville in 2011, the largest single contribution in the university’s history, and believed to be the single largest gift to any university or college in Kentucky.