Defense Secretary Harold Brown testifies at a 1977 House hearing with Gen. George Brown, Joint Chiefs chairman. (Margaret Thomas/The Washington Post)

Regarding the Jan. 6 obituary for Harold Brown, “Carter defense secretary who advocated arms buildup”:

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara once told me that Harold Brown was one of two people smarter than he was. That was a measure of the man we recently lost. Jack Stempler, a grizzled Pentagon lawyer, cautioned Mr. Brown, who earned his doctorate at Columbia University at age 21, to speak more slowly in congressional testimony because his mind raced so far ahead of those questioning him. Mr. Brown relaxed by swimming and in later life started to play tennis seriously, inspiring hundreds of lieutenant colonels to take up the game in the hope of playing against their boss, the secretary of the Air Force. (My undersecretary of the Navy, Chuck Baird, and I defeated Mr. Brown and his undersecretary, Tim Hoopes, in a tennis match.)

It was a great pleasure to work with Mr. Brown as part of McNamara’s astonishing team, which included Cy Vance, Roz Gilpatric, Paul Nitze, Tom Morris, Steve Ailes, Gene Zuckert, and many other talented and dedicated individuals. As we look for a permanent replacement for Jim Mattis as defense secretary, we should keep Mr. Brown in mind as an example of what it means to be an effective and virtuous public servant.

Paul Ignatius, Washington

The writer served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in various positions,
including as secretary of the Navy and
an assistant secretary of defense.