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This veteran decided to go back to college. At 77 years old, he's a graduate – and a playwright

Veteran graduates college at 77 years old
Veteran graduates college at 77 years old and writes a play 02:28

Timothy Brown is a Vietnam War veteran, a father and a grandfather, but one thing always remained on his bucket list: finishing college. Brown had enrolled in college when he lived in Compton, California in the 1960s, but dropped out so he could focus on work.

Brown eventually moved to South Carolina and started taking some classes at a local school, but only for one semester. Then, in 2018, he found out about a veteran affairs program that helps vets go back to college. He decided to seize the opportunity and enroll at South Carolina State University – majoring in drama. He was 73 years old at the time. 

"I'm sitting in class with my grandkids. I always told them, 'Hey, you know, you guys are my grandkids.' You know, they're in their early 20s and here I am in my middle 70s," Brown told CBS News. "But it was real good. I mean, I had no problem adjusting. They welcomed me very much, so everything turned out."

Brown said he was like a father – or grandfather – figure to his classmates and school opened his mind to new experiences, like acting. 

"I think what happened – in fact, I know now what happened – is sometimes you have a talent inside and you don't even know you have the talent," he said. "I had the talent inside, but I didn't even realize I had acting talent inside of me."

Timothy Brown decided to go back to college in his 70s, thanks to a VA program that helps veterans go back to school. At 77 years old, he's a graduate - and a playwright.  Larry Hardy/The Times and Democrat

He not only had to take acting classes, but also playwriting classes, and he had to write a play in order to graduate. For his play, Brown was inspired by a real-life experience – traveling 6,000 miles round trip to see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in 1968.

"It's a true story where we actually drove a church bus...from Los Angeles all the way to D.C. for Dr. King's last march," Brown said. "When he finished his speech that day, he came down off of the podium, and we just happened to be in his path. So, we were able to shake his hand, and i was able to take a snapshot of him and my pastor."

"So, it was a rewarding trip and experience because we never dreamed we would have this opportunity to shake the man's hand," he said.

Timothy Brown traveled from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. – 6,000 miles round trip – to see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in 1968, just months before he was assassinated.  Timothy Brown

Brown said if he hadn't received the opportunity to go back to school, me might not have put this memory to paper and written a play. "I guess sometimes in life, your dreams actually do come true. That's exactly what happened in this case," he said.

This year, at 77 years old, Brown finished school and received his college degree. But he hopes this isn't the end of the road for his play, which he wants to turn into a real production at the university. If the school agrees, he'd like to star in production alongside his fellow classmates.

"I do believe in my heart that we need to put this out so that the younger generation, younger folk, can see this and say, 'Okay, our ancestors, some of those in the front of us actually did a lot to sacrifice so we could have these freedoms and equality that we have,'" he said. "I feel that if they could actually see that, and if we could reach two or three, I think it would be worth it. Just so they can appreciate what we went through so they would have an easier day."

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