Reverend Cardes H. Brown was raised in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of a Baptist minister and a public school teacher. In 1963, Brown enrolled in the pre-med curriculum at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. However, Brown felt called to the ministry, and later graduated from Greensboro Bible College with bachelor’s and graduate theology degrees. He also received a master’s of divinity from Shaw Divinity School.
Brown served as pastor of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Rocky Mount before becoming pastor of New Light Baptist Church in Greensboro in 1975. The church was located in the vicinity of Morningside Homes, the site of the November 3, 1979 shootings. Brown was appointed to the Citizens Review Commission formed by the Greensboro Human Relations Committee to investigate that event. Rev. Brown has also served as president of the Pulpit Forum, as a member of the Citizens Review Commission for Alternatives for Incarceration, and as chairman of Concerned Citizens Against Police Brutality and the Guilford County Dept. of Social Services board.