Val A. Browning, 98, inventor, world-renowned industrialist and former chairman of the board of Browning Arms Co., died Monday evening of cancer at his Ogden home.
He also was well-known for his philanthropic efforts in behalf of educational and health-care institutions in the Ogden area and was a major contributor to the arts.The Brownings now have no official affiliation with Browning Arms, but Mr. Browning became honorary chairman in the mid-1970s when the Browning family sold stock in the firm.
Mr. Browning was born Aug. 20, 1895, in Ogden, the third generation of gun inventors whose name became synonymous with guns. His grandfather, Jonathan Browning, came to Utah in 1851 and opened a gun shop in Ogden. His father, John Moses Browning, was the inventor of dozens of weapons, including an automatic shotgun, .45-caliber pistol and the Browning Automatic Rifle (known as the BAR), and was founder in 1898 of Browning Arms Co.
The northern Utah company was once the world's largest manufacturer of small arms. The firm is now simply known as Browning and has headquarters in Mountain Green, Morgan County.
After graduating from Ogden High School in 1912, Mr. Browning studied mechanical engineering and law at Cornell University. During World War I he taught instructors at the Army's machine gun school in France the use of guns that the Brownings had invented and manufactured. Following his military tour, Mr. Browning began work for his father and in 1920 was named manager of the Browning Arms factory in Liege, Belgium.
In 1924 he married Ann Chaffin. They lived in Europe until 1935, when he returned to Utah as president of Browning Arms. Like his father, Mr. Browning was always working to improve guns. He holds many patents in his own name.
In a 1988 Associated Press interview, Mr. Browning said his two most satisfying inventions were improvements to his father's designs- a quick-loading feature for the automatic shotgun and a single-trigger mechanism for the over-under double-barrel shotgun.
He was decorated by King Baudouin of Belgium with the Cross of Chevalier de l'Order de Leopold in 1955, the same honor his father received from King Albert in 1914 - for "eminent services rendered to gun making."
Mr. Browning's philanthropic contributions include endowments for the Val A. Browning Fine Arts Center at Weber State University; St. Joseph High School Library, Ogden; the Browning Arms Gun Museum at Ogden's Union Station; a cancer-treatment center at St. Benedict's Hospital, Ogden; a new building at Your Community Connection, also Ogden; the Val A. Browning Administration Building at the Orem campus of Utah Valley State College; and the Val A. Browning Learning Resource Center and the Val A. Browning Library at Dixie College, St. George.
Two years ago Mr. Browning donated a European masterwork collection to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. One painting, by Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger, is insured for $1 million.
Weber State University President Paul H. Thompson said Mr. Brown-ing's passing is a "major loss for Utah and the nation. I only knew him for four years, but he was an outstanding leader in our community and had such great insight on the needs of the community. He wanted to provide people with cultural events at a reasonable price. His funds helped us bring such acts as the Bolshoi Ballet from Moscow, the New York Ballet and symphonies from around the world."
Saying he had known the industrialist and philanthropist and his family for many years, Ogden Mayor Glenn J. Mecham said, "Mr. Browning represents the highest standard of personal values and caring for society. His generosity is legendary. However, his genuine personal traits for caring for every individual are not as well known. To know Val Browning is to know how much he really cared about the welfare of humanity."
Mr. Browning's wife died in 1975. Survivors include two sons and two daughters: John Val Browning, Ogden; Bruce W. Browning, Seattle; Carol Dean Dumke, Las Vegas; Judy Jones, Pleasant View, Weber County; a sister, Elizabeth McLeod, Escondido, Calif.; 12 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.
Private funeral services and burial will be conducted under the direction of Lindquist's Ogden Mortuary. Burial will be at Lindquist's Washington Heights Memorial Park, Ogden. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Union Station Foundation, Ogden.