Norman Brown Jr. knew something was wrong when he noticed the office door of one of his customers was ajar and had a broken knob. The postal carrier was not concerned for his safety but for hers.
He didn’t know if he was alone in the building or not, but he knew he had to act quickly to make sure no one was harmed and that what he believed could be a crime scene remained undisturbed. Brown immediately called 911 after first calling his supervisor to see what to do about the mail he had been faithfully delivering in downtown Orangeburg for more than three years.
Brown ended up being 30 to 45 minutes behind on his route on May 20, but it was worth waiting for the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety officer, who further investigated the scene at the law office of Orangeburg attorney Zipporah Sumpter at 198 Docket St. The officer found the office vacant and a purse that had been rummaged through, but Sumpter was unharmed.
Brown was relieved. He has since been recommended to receive a letter of commendation from United States Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe for his quick-thinking actions.
Brown doesn’t consider himself a hero, but he is grateful for the recommendation from Deloris Shearin-Lyle, manager of the U.S. Postal Service’s Greater South Carolina District.
“I just take it in a humble manner. I’m grateful that they want to recommend me. Zipporah’s safety was my main concern,” he said. “Your customers come first and in an instance like that, making sure no one’s injured. You take all the precautions.”
He said alarm bells went off when the sign on Sumpter’s door said she would be back at noon. He arrived at her office door a little before noon and found it strange that the door was open.
“I didn’t get to the point of knocking. The door was already busted open. I called my supervisor. I’m not doing something kind of like on my own. I could have dropped the mail off and went on about my business, but then there was the not knowing if she could have been hurt inside,” Brown said.
Sumpter said she was grateful that only about $80 was taken from her purse. She realizes things could have been much worse.
“Norman’s been my mail carrier for a number of years and he pretty much knows my routine. He stepped up to the plate, and I’m grateful. He’s always been a very nice mail carrier, but what he did on that particular day just meant so much to me because he didn’t have to do that,” she said.
“I was in court so I knew nothing about what was going on. But he was the one that actually noticed that something was wrong. He called his supervisor, who advised him to call the police and to stay, and he did. He got the ball rolling,” Sumpter said.
Eugene Moody, Brown’s supervisor at the Orangeburg Post Office, said, “He’s quite a dedicated person, and he takes his job seriously. That was great of him to do what he did, and I commend him as well. Here at the postal service, service to the customer is our top priority.”
“He caused us a little overtime, but it was well worth it,” Moody said, laughing.
“There was a 30- to 45-minute delay from my route, but you’re not thinking about that,” said Brown, who is no stranger to helping others. He said he often doesn’t give a second thought about helping stranded motorists and others he sees along roadsides in need of help.
“You gotta be careful at times. I’ll stop, but sometimes something says, ‘Don’t stop,’ and I listen,” Brown said.
Harry Spratlin, communications director for the Greater South Carolina District of the USPS, said Donahoe writes letters of commendation to postal employees who help someone in need during the course of their day.
“These letters, which are honorary recognitions, go into their personal files. Over 200 postal employees are recognized annually across the nation, and some are also recognized by their unions. Norman is a conscientious, experienced employee who looks out for his customers and the security of the mail,” Spratlin said.
Brown is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he served as a religious programs specialist. He also served three months as a police officer in Chesterfield County. He said he wasn’t afraid for his own safety in the building but was just glad that Sumpter was not harmed.
“I saw him a couple of days later and hugged and thanked him. In my mind and heart, I’m just grateful to him to even care enough to say, ‘Something is wrong,’ He could have walked off but as far as he knew, I could have been in the office knocked out or something,” Sumpter said. “He cared enough to take the action that he took and to stay there, and I’m appreciative to him for that.”
Brown lives in Society Hill with his wife, Regina, and their two sons, Norman III and Jaron.
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