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The Honorable Willie L. Brown

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Information about The Honorable Willie L. Brown

Profile image of The Honorable Willie L. Brown

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
Occupation(s):
Mayor
State Assemblyman

Favorites

Birthplace

Born:
3/20/1934
Birth Location:
Mineola, Texas

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
Occupation(s):
Mayor
State Assemblyman

Favorites

Birthplace

Born:
3/20/1934
Birth Location:
Mineola
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Biography

Political leader The Honorable Willie L. Brown, Jr. was born on March 20, 1934 in Mineola, Texas to Minnie Collins Boyd and Willie Lewis Brown, Sr. He graduated from Mineola Colored High School in 1951. In 1955, he received his B.A. degree in political science from San Francisco State University, followed by a J.D. degree in 1958 from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Brown operated his own general law practice in San Francisco. In 1960, he led a sit-in to protest housing discrimination; and in 1964 he defended political activist Mario Savio, who was arrested for civil disobedience. Brown was elected to the California State Assembly in 1964 on his second run, and he would remain there to represent San Francisco until 1995. In 1969, he was made the Democratic Whip; and in 1980, he was elected Speaker of the Assembly. He also spoke at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami, Florida. After Californians passed a 1990 ballot initiative instituting term limits for state elected officials, Brown was “termed out” of office in 1995. That year, he ran for the office of Mayor of San Francisco and easily defeated incumbent Frank Jordan. He served as mayor from 1996 until 2004, overseeing several development projects and mediating two public transit worker strikes.

After retiring from public office in 2004, Brown continued to dedicate his time to community service. In 2008, he established the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service, a nonpartisan non-profit organization at San Francisco State University dedicated to training future municipal administrators. Brown has Honorary Doctorate of Law degrees from seventeen institutions, including San Francisco State University, Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio; as well as a Doctorate of Science degree from the California College of Podiatric Medicine. He was a Fellow of Crown College at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 2006, Brown co-hosted a morning radio show with comedian Will Durst, and in 2008 he published his autobiography, Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times.

In 1958, Brown married Blanche Vitero, with whom he has three children: Susan, Robin, and Michael. He also has four grandchildren and a daughter, Sydney Brown, by Carolyn Carpeneti. Brown and Vitero separated in 1976 but remain married.

Willie L. Brown was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 14, 2015.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Willie L. Brown's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his parents' family backgrounds
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about his relationship with his mother, Minnie Collins Boyd
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his respect for his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his relationship with his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about his experiences at Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his move to San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about joining Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown remembers Fillmore Street in San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his early work experiences in San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls attending San Francisco State College in San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls appointing Hamilton Boswell as chaplain of the California State Assembly
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about the history of black political activities in San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown reflects upon his support from black churches
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls enrolling at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about his early political activities
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about the beginning of his law career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown remembers becoming a criminal defense lawyer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about Phillip Burton's political career, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about Phillip Burton's political career, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls his first successful campaign
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his early experiences as a member of the California State Assembly
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about the 1972 Democratic National Convention
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown remembers the growth in black leadership in the Democratic Party during the 1970s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his unsuccessful run for Speaker of the California State Assembly
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes how he became speaker of the California State Assembly in 1981
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes the position of Speaker of the California State Assembly
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his approach to the California State Assembly speakership
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about his contributions as Speaker of the California State Assembly
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown reflects upon the importance of fairness in politics
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls the campaign to unseat him by introducing term limits
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about gaining President Ronald Wilson Reagan's support to oppose term limits
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls the introduction of term limits in the California State Assembly
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about the Gang of Five
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about the events leading to his election as Speaker of the California State Assembly
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown remembers his involvement in the mayoralty of George Moscone
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls his reluctance to run for mayor of San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks his campaign for mayor of San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown remembers journalist Herb Caen
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls transitioning to the role of mayor, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls transitioning to the role of mayor, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about his role in initiating AIDS research
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown recalls his frustrations as mayor of San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about renaming a street in honor of Carlton Benjamin Goodlett
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown reflects upon the impact of his mayoralty for people of color
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about his contributions to cultural institutions in San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his family
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes how a portion of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was named in his honor
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about his fashion interests
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown talks about the institute and fellowship programs he has sponsored
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown describes his hopes for the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - The Honorable Willie L. Brown reflects upon his legacy