Born in Alberta, Louisiana, Brown grew up in Ouachita County, Arkansas and Little Rock, Arkansas, where he became friends with many Native Americans who made him realize that the portrayals of their people in American movies was not the true story. He worked as a reporter in Harrison, Arkansas, then became a teacher and librarian.
Following his service in World War II, Brown headed the agricultural library at the University of Illinois, where he gained a master's degree in library science and became professor. He retired back in Arkansas in 1973, and devoted his time to writing.
He had written several novels during his life, the first being Wave High the Banner, a fictionalized account of the life of Davy Crockett (who was an acquaintance of his great-grandfather). He wrote over a dozen books, including several for children, before Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee came out. Another popular work, Creek Mary's Blood, was a novel telling of several generations of a family descended from one Creek woman.