A dapper dresser, TSA Intelligence Operations Specialist James K. Brown turns heads when dressed in his most recognizable suit. Not many men can pull off red, but Brown does it convincingly. Add an authentic yak-haired beard and the transformation is complete. Brown is Santa Claus.
“I tried being a department store Santa, but it wasn’t me,” recalled Brown of his early years as St. Nick. “Most guys turn it on in October and off after Christmas, but for me, being Santa is a yearlong gig.”
As the open source content analyst in the Planning & Programs Division of TSA’s Intelligence and Analysis, Brown’s full-time position, he plays a key role in developing Intel Source, the agency’s unclassified intelligence intranet site.
“Every day, I work hard to make sure Intel Source is user-friendly and relevant for employees across TSA,” said Brown, who was presented with the 2021 Homeland Security Information Sharing Award. He earned the prestigious award for his outstanding efforts partnering with local community groups, transportation stakeholders and members of the intelligence community by sharing TSA’s mission and products.
In his personal time, Brown researches the history of Santa and knows more about St. Nick than anyone south of the North Pole. For instance, why does Santa wear a white belt? Here’s a hint: it’s because of firefighters.
His research shows firefighters played an important role in collecting and refurbishing used toys for underprivileged children as early as 1924. Because fire stations were often the largest buildings in a community, they hosted Christmas parties for the kids, complete with a visit from Santa Claus.
The early suits firemen slipped into didn’t have a belt, so the men used their dress uniform work belts to keep the padding in place. Modern Santa’s have discontinued the white belts and adopted the black belts used today.
Today, Brown pays homage to tradition by riding in a fire truck when collecting toys for the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots campaign. His admiration for firefighters has grown as he supports community service associations. When asked about ditching his red sleigh for the similarly colored fire truck, Brown quipped, “Riding in a ladder truck bucket has always been on my bucket list. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
A U.S. Navy veteran with 20 years in the intelligence field, Brown spent many Christmases deployed overseas and remembers how hard it was to be separated from his family.
“Others took care of my kids while I was gone, so when I have an opportunity, I like to help surprise kids when military parents come home for Christmas,” said Brown enthusiastically.
Santa’s in on the surprise, collaborating with the family weeks in advance and delivers big when Mom, Dad, son or daughter walks through the door. “I enjoy being able to share joy and laughter,” said the fashionably dressed man in the red suit and black belt.
Creating lasting family memories never goes out of season.
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs