Kirk Browning dropped out of Cornell University after only a month to become a newspaper reporter in Texas. When the United States entered World War II, Browning was rejected for service due to a longstanding childhood injury, so he drove ambulances throughout France and England. After the war, he returned to the United States and worked as a chicken farmer on an egg farm in Connecticut, until one of his customers, Samuel Chotzinoff, the director of NBC’s music division, offered him a position as a music librarian at NBC in New York. Working his way up through the ranks of the network, Browning found himself as a stage manager for NBC’s newly formed opera company, later becoming its primary director, directing live televised performances of the NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by the legendary Arturo Toscanini.
Among Browning's many credits are the premiere of the first opera written specifically for television, Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors in 1951; Frank Sinatra's first special in 1957; numerous Hallmark Hall of Fame productions between 1951 and 1958; Live from the Met and Great Performances for PBS; and television adaptations of plays such as June Moon, Damn Yankees!, A Touch of the Poet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Time of Your Life, Tartuffe, Fifth of July, You Can't Take it with You, The House of Blue Leaves, Our Town, and Death of a Salesman. The highlight of Browning’s illustrious career was directing live telecasts for the program Live From Lincoln Center (of which he directed 185) the first of which aired in 1976. At the time of his death in 2008 he was preparing a production of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly for the program. Browning’s additional credits include episodes of the series Producers’ Showcase, Shirley Temple’s Storybook, Startime, The Bell Telephone Hour, NET Opera Theater, Visions, The Metropolitan Opera Presents, and American Playhouse.
For his directorial efforts, Browning was nominated for the DGA’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television Awards in 2001 for Death of a Salesman. Browning has also been nominated for 10 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning in 1987 for an episode of Great Performances, and again the following year for an episode of The Metropolitan Opera Presents. Browning served on the Eastern Directors Council from 1963-65.