Willie Brown (politician)

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Willie Brown (politician) : biography

March 20, 1934 –

Brown gained a reputation for knowing what was occurring in the state legislature at all times. In 1992, he gave US$1.18 million to the Democratic Party to help with voter registration and several campaigns, some of which was from contributions from tobacco companies and insurance companies. As Speaker, he worked to defeat the Three Strikes Law. Critics have claimed Brown did not do enough to raise the legislature’s ethical standards or to protect the environment. During his time in Sacramento, Brown estimates he raised close to US$75 million to help elect and reelect state Democrats.

Brown led efforts in the Assembly for state universities to divest from South Africa and to increase AIDS research funding. Brown helped attain state funds for San Francisco, including funding for public health and mental health funds. Brown held the 1992 state budget for 63 days until Governor Pete Wilson added another US$1.1 billion for public schools.

Brown had a reputation in the Assembly for his ability to manage people. Brown attained the vote of Doris Allen by treating her with the respect she thought she deserved. Republican State Senator Ken Maddy of Fresno noted Brown’s ability to “size up the situation and create, sometimes on the spot, a winning strategy.” According to Hobson, "He was a brilliant day care operator. … He knew exactly how to hold the hand of his Assembly members. He dominated California politics like no other politician in the history of the state".

Peoples Temple investigation

From 1975 to 1978, Brown supported the Peoples Temple, led by Jim Jones, while it was being investigated for alleged criminal wrongdoing. Brown attended the Temple perhaps a dozen times and served as master of ceremonies at a testimonial dinner for Jones where he stated in his introduction "[l]et me present to you a combination of Martin King, Angela Davis, Albert Einstein … Chairman Mao."Tim Reiterman (1982) "Raven: The Untold Story of The Rev. Jim Jones and His People" ISBN 0-525-24136-1 page 308Nancy Dooley & Tim Reiterman, "Jim Jones: Power Broker", San Francisco Examiner, August 7, 1977Layton, Deborah. Seductive Poison. Anchor, 1999. ISBN 0-385-48984-6. p. 105. Brown later said "If we knew then he was mad, clearly we wouldn’t have appeared with him."

Aesthetic style

Brown has had an ostentatious sense of personal style from the beginning that he later parlayed into a political advantage. Even in high school he was fastidious about his appearance. In office he became famous for British and Italian suits, sports cars, nightclubbing, and a collection of dressy hats. He was once called "The Best Dressed Man in San Francisco" by Esquire magazine.

In his 2008 autobiography, Basic Brown, he described his taste for US$6,000 Brioni suits and his search for the perfect chocolate Corvette to add to his car collection. In one chapter titled: "The Power of Clothes: Don’t Pull a Dukakis", Brown explains that men should acquire a navy blazer for each season: one with “a hint of green” for springtime, another with more autumnal threading for the fall. He further remarks, "You really shouldn’t try to get through a public day wearing just one thing. … Sometimes, I change clothes four times a day."

After Mayorship

After leaving the mayor’s office, Brown considered running for the State Senate but ultimately declined. From January 2006 through September 2006, Brown co-hosted a morning radio show with comedian Will Durst on a local San Francisco Air America Radio affiliate. He also makes a weekly podcast. Brown also established The Willie L. Brown, Jr. Institute on Politics & Public Service, an unaffiliated nonprofit organization at San Francisco State University. The center trains students for careers in municipal, county and regional governments. The center will be one of the first to focus on local government in the country. Brown gave the center’s library a collection of his artifacts, videotapes and legislative papers from his forty years in public office. He is also planning to mentor students, teach a course on leadership, and recruit guest speakers.