Brownell, Reginald Samuel (1893–1961), civil servant, was born 5 February 1893, son of Thomas and Susanna Brownell; from about 1906, he lived with his mother and at least one brother in Glasnevin, Dublin, attending Mountjoy School. He was a scholar in TCD from 1914, graduating with an honours degree in classics in 1915. In that year he joined the Egyptian civil service, returning to work there in 1919 after two years’ war service. In 1923 he resigned to join the civil service in the recently created Northern Ireland. Two years later he became private secretary to James Caulfeild (qv), 8th Viscount Charlemont, the minister for education, and in 1938 he was made assistant secretary in the ministry of education. In 1938 he succeeded the more charismatic A. N. Bonaparte Wyse (qv) as permanent secretary. He also served as civil commissioner for the northern area of Northern Ireland in 1941.
In response to the Butler education act passed by the Westminster parliament in 1944, Brownell, the minister Samuel Hall-Thompson (qv), and other officials drafted a complex and detailed series of proposals to reshape the whole educational system in Northern Ireland. These became law in 1947, but if Brownell or his political masters had hoped that the changes would satisfy all parties in the province and end years of educational controversy, they were to be disappointed. The act did introduce some important changes, especially in the secondary level of education. Brownell retired from the civil service in 1958, and died 20 May 1961 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. He married (1924) Jessie Strachan; they had two daughters.