Roscoe C. Brown Jr., a college educator, a Tuskegee airman in World War II and a go-to voice of reason during New York City’s racial volatility in the 1970s and ’80s, died on Saturday in the Bronx. He was 94.
His death, at Montefiore Medical Center, was confirmed by his son Dennis.
After directing the Institute of Afro-American Affairs at New York University, where he was also a professor of education, Dr. Brown served as the president of Bronx Community College from 1977 to 1993 and then as the director of the Center for Education Policy at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York.
He was probably best known for flying 68 combat missions as a fighter squadron commander of the nation’s belatedly celebrated first black military aviators, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, based in Tuskegee, Ala. But he also played an influential if subtle role in local political and municipal affairs as an adviser to black elected officials and as a founder and then president of 100 Black Men, a civic group formed in New York City in 1963 using the number as a symbol of solidarity in its effort to improve conditions among African-Americans.
Dr. Brown had few political aspirations himself (the only major races he participated in were nine New York City Marathons), which made his pronouncements on topical issues seem less strident or self-serving than those from most officeseekers.
“He would never pound his chest and say, ‘I am Roscoe Brown,’” former Mayor David N. Dinkins, who counted him as a friend and adviser, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
If Mr. Dinkins; Representative Charles B. Rangel; Basil Paterson, a former deputy mayor; and Percy Sutton, a former Manhattan borough president, were collectively known as Harlem’s Gang of Four, the former mayor said, Mr. Brown would have been an honorary member.