Motherwell, Lanarkshire born right half Jimmy Brown began his football career with junior club Belhavenock in 1923 and played for Maryhill in 1924 and Wishaw Juniors in 1925 before signing for Scottish League East Fife in 1926. In May 1927 he was signed by First Division Burnley, making his Football League debut at West Ham United that October, becoming a first team regular in 1929-30 in a season in which Burnley suffered relegation. Two years later, Brown was named as the club’s captain.
He stayed at Turf Moor for five more seasons in the Second Division and was a member of their 1935 FA Cup semi final team beaten 3-0 by eventual winners Sheffield Wednesday at Villa Park. Having scored 5 goals in 241 appearances for The Clarets he was signed by Manchester United for a fee of £1,000 in June 1935. He made his debut for Manchester United in a 3-1 defeat away to Plymouth Argyle on 31st August 1935. He was the club’s starting right half and captain for most of the season, missing just two matches as Manchester United finished as Second Division Champions to earn promotion to the top flight.
He continued as the club’s first-choice right half for the next two seasons as they were relegated back to the Second Division and immediately promoted again in 1938 as Second Division runners up. Having already lost the captaincy to George Roughton in 1937, Brown lost his place in the team to George Gladwin at the start of the 1938-39 season, before Jack Warner took over in November 1938, having been signed the previous summer. This meant that Brown made just three appearances for Manchester United in 1938-39 and he was allowed to leave for Bradford Park Avenue in February 1939. He made 13 appearances for Bradford Park Avenue before the end of the season and another in 1939-40 before League football was suspended due to the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, during which he retired from football.