West Oakland icon ‘Tall Paul’ succumbs to Cancer

2 mins read

Paul Brown, better known as “Tall Paul” to neighbors, has passed. The 62-year-old West Oakland resident had been battling stage 4 lung cancer for the past few months.

Paul was a fixture of the East Bay Bridge Shopping center cruising his signature “double stack” bike with gold spray painted “scraper bike” spokes and accents. Paul spent much of his time raising money to build custom bikes for local kids that earned at least three A’s on their report cards.

Paul lived and worked out of his RV stationed in front of the Central Concrete Supply off Mandela Parkway at Peralta. He developed a cordial relationship with neighbors and Oakland city employees.

People often donated old bikes to him that they intended to recycle for their scrap metal. “I get whole bicycles that probably come off a bush or somewhere. They have all these leaves in them and chains so rusted, you can’t even turn them. But I bring them back to life,” he noted in this 2015 The Bold Italic piece.

Paul at his mobile operation on Peralta (Photo: TheBoldItalic.com).

According to neighbor Petra Johnson, who had been providing updates on Paul’s status via Nextdoor, Paul fell from his bicycle last December leading to his diagnosis. “At the time, he was also experiencing increasingly blurred vision. After a fall that left him dazed and immobile, he went to the emergency department where he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized in his brain causing seizures that led to him falling from bike.”

Johnson was working to help Paul realize his dream of opening a bike shop for kids through a GoFundMe campaign. When he became ill, she diverted her attention to using the funds to help provide care for him.

Paul received radiation treatment and was placed on steroids to reduce the inflammation in his brain but his condition gradually worsened. He was placed in a skilled nursing facility when he was no longer able to care for himself.

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Johnson provided a final update on Friday noting that his health had declined drastically and he was receiving comfort care at Summit. “I went to see him yesterday. He is cachectic and no longer able to speak. At this point it’s only a matter of days before he passes.”

NBC Bay Area reporter Joe Rosata Jr. provided an update from Paul’s nephew that he had passed Saturday* morning. This 2015 piece by Rosata provides quite a bit of background on Paul including his career as a bus and truck driver for more than 20 years. “I just love bikes, Brown said. “Just working on them — being creative with them.”

“West Oakland will not be the same without Tall Paul riding around on his gold double-stack!” added Johnson in her final update.

Money raised on this GoFundMe page will go toward covering Paul’s funeral expenses.

*CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the correct date Brown passed.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


    • “‘Tall Paul’ succumbs” – another one of your very best, Rob. If only we could keep you away from social issues and politics your blog would make such a contribution and be such a pleasure to read.

      • Keep it all Rob. The more the better.

        We need as many ideas as we can. We can survive lots of ideas in this town!!

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