Willie Brown (politician)

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Willie Brown (politician) : biography

March 20, 1934 –

Brown increased the city’s special assistants payroll from US$15.6 to US$45.6 million between 1995 and 2001. Between April 29, 2001 and May 3, 2001, San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Chuck Finnie released a 5 part story concerning Brown and his relations with city contractors, lobbyists, and city appointments and hires he had made during his tenure as Mayor. The report concluded that there was an appearance of favoritism and conflicts of interest in the awarding of city contracts and development deals, a perception that large contracts had an undue influence on city hall, and patronage with the hiring of campaign workers, contributors, legislative colleagues, and friends to government positions.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Brown when he was Speaker. One investigation was a sting operation concerning a fake fish company attempting to bribe Brown; he was not charged with any criminal act. The FBI further investigated Brown from 1998 to 2003 over his appointees at the Airport Commission for potential conflicts of interests. Brown friend, contributor, and former law client, Charlie Walker was given a share of city contracts. He had served jail time in 1984 for violating laws concerning minority contracting. The FBI also investigated Brown’s approval of expansion of Sutro Tower and SFO. Scott Company, with one prominent Brown backer, was accused of using a phony minority front company to secure an airport construction project. Robert Nurisso was sentenced to house arrest. During Brown’s administration, there were two convictions of city officials tied to Brown. The FBI investigated Brown’s friend Charlie Walker, who won several city contracts. Walker had previously thrown several parties for Brown and was among his biggest fund raisers. Brown reassigned Parking and Traffic chief Bill Maher to an airport job when his critics claimed Maher should have been fired. Brown put his former girlfriend, Wendy Linka, on the city payroll. Brown was known for his strong loyalty to his supporters.

Early life

Brown was born in Mineola, a small segregated town in east Texas marked by racial tensions,In 1930s, the "tensions" were undoubtedly less than they would have been than if anyone had attempted to enforce integration. to Minnie Collins Boyd and Lewis Brown. Brown was the fourth of five children. During Brown’s childhood, mob violence periodically erupted in Mineola, keeping African Americans from voting. His first job was as a shoeshine boy in a whites-only barber shop. He later worked as a janitor, fry cook, and field hand. He learned his work ethic at a young age from his grandmother. He graduated from MacFarland High School, an all-Black school he later described as substandard, and left for San Francisco in August 1951 at the age of 17 to live with his uncle.

Brown originally wanted to attend Stanford University. His interviewer from Stanford also taught at San Francisco State and was surprised by Brown’s ambition. Brown did not meet the qualifications for San Francisco State, but the professor got him enrolled on probation. Brown adjusted to college studies after working especially hard to catch up in his first semester. He joined the Young Democrats and became friends with John L. Burton. Brown originally wanted to be a math instructor but campus politics changed his ambitions. He became active in his church and the San Francisco NAACP. Brown worked as a doorman, janitor and shoe salesman to pay for college. Brown is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He also joined the ROTC. Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from San Francisco State College in 1955., accessed July 4, 2007 Brown later stated that his decision to go to law school was "more upon the avoidance of military service than anything else." He quit the ROTC and joined the National Guard reserve where he was trained as a dental hygienist. Brown attended Hastings College of the Law where he also worked as a janitor to pay for law school. Brown befriended future San Francisco Mayor George Moscone for whom Brown would later manage a campaign. Brown earned a J.D. in 1958 and was class president at Hastings.