Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. is an American politician of the Democratic Party. He served over 30 years in the California State Assembly, spending 15 years as its speaker, and later served as the 41st mayor of San Francisco, the first African American to do so. Under the current California term-limits law, no Speaker of the California State Assembly will be permitted to have a longer tenure than Browns, the San Francisco Chronicle called Brown one of San Franciscos most notable mayors who had celebrity beyond the citys boundaries. Brown was born in Mineola, Texas and graduated from Mineola Colored High School in 1951 and he moved to San Francisco in 1951, attending San Francisco State University and graduating in 1955 with a degree in liberal studies. Brown earned a J. D. from University of California and he spent several years in private practice before gaining election in his second attempt to the California Assembly in 1964. Brown became the Democrats whip in 1969 and speaker in 1980 and he was known for his ability to manage people and maintain party discipline. According to The New York Times, Brown became one of the countrys most powerful state legislators and his long tenure and powerful position were used as a focal point of Californias initiative campaign 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 Republican majority by gaining the vote of several Republicans, near the end of his final term, Brown left the legislature to become mayor of San Francisco. Brown served as San Francisco mayor from January 8,1996 until January 8,2004 and his tenure as mayor is marked by a significant increase in real estate development, public works, city beautification, and other large-scale city projects. He presided over the era at a time when San Franciscos economy was rapidly expanding. Brown presided over the city’s most diverse administration with more Asian Americans, women, Latinos, gays and he increased San Franciscos funding of Muni by tens of millions of dollars and ended the citys policy of punishing people for feeding the homeless. The SF Board of Supervisors opposed Browns agenda and some of his initiatives, in particular office, Brown was restricted by term limits from running for mayor and was succeeded by a political protege, Gavin Newsom. Brown was born in Mineola, a segregated town in east Texas marked by racial tensions, to Minnie Collins Boyd. Brown was the fourth of five children, during Browns childhood, mob violence periodically erupted in Mineola, keeping African Americans from voting. His first job was as a boy in a whites-only barber shop. He later worked as a janitor, fry cook, and field hand and he learned his work ethic at a young age from his grandmother. He graduated from MacFarland High School, a school he later described as substandard. Brown originally wanted to attend Stanford University and his interviewer from Stanford also taught at San Francisco State and was surprised by Brown’s ambition
Brown in February 2006
Signatures from a resolution signed by Brown in his role of Speaker of the California State Assembly
Mayor Willie Brown at an event in the San Francisco City Hall rotunda in the 1990s.