Brown, Willie L. (Willie Lewis), Jr., 1934-
Willie Lewis Brown Jr. (born March 20, 1934) is an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, Brown served over 30 years in the California State Assembly, spending 15 years as its speaker. He later became mayor of San Francisco, the first African American to hold that office. The San Francisco Chronicle called Brown "one of San Francisco's most notable mayors", adding that he had "celebrity beyond the city's boundaries."
Born in Mineola, Texas, Brown graduated from Mineola Colored High School before earning his B.A. degree from San Francisco State University and J.D. degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1958. He spent several years in private practice before being elected to the California Assembly in 1964 in his second attempt. Brown became the Democrats' whip in 1969 and speaker in 1980. He was known for his ability to manage colleagues and maintain party discipline. According to The New York Times, Brown became one of the country's most powerful state legislators. His long tenure and powerful position were used as a focal point of the California ballot proposition to limit the terms of state legislators, which passed in 1990. During the last of his three allowed post-initiative terms, Brown maintained control of the Assembly despite a slim GOP majority by gaining several Republicans' support. Near the end of his final term, he left the legislature and became mayor of San Francisco.
Brown served as mayor from January 8, 1996, to January 8, 2004. His tenure was marked by a significant increase in real estate development, public works, city beautification and other large-scale city projects. He presided over the "dot-com" era at a time when San Francisco's economy was rapidly expanding. Brown's administration included more Asian-Americans, women, Latinos, gays and African-Americans than the administrations of his predecessors. Term limits prevented him from running for a third term and he was succeeded by a political protégé, Gavin Newsom. Brown then retired from politics.
After leaving the mayor's office, Brown considered running for the State Senate but ultimately declined. From January through September 2006, he hosted a morning radio show with comedian Will Durst on a local San Francisco Air America Radio affiliate. He also does a weekly podcast. On February 5, 2008, Simon & Schuster released Brown's hardcover autobiography, Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times, with collaborator P. J. Corkery. In retirement, Brown continued to participate in fundraising for and advising other politicians.
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