Willie Brown

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Willie Brown

Willie L. Brown. Jr. was Mayor of San Francisco. He is a native of Texas.


Brown received his B.A. degree from San Francisco State University in 1955. He then moved downtown to Hastings, from which he graduated in 1958. While at Hastings, Brown was an active member of Phi Alpha Delta. He serves as the permanent president of the Class of 1958.

Burton connection

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Willie Brown with John Burton.

Helped by Carlton Goodlett

According to radical former San Francisco district attorney Terence Hallinan, an endorsement from Carlton Goodlett was important to the election of many political leaders. Goodlett helped to inspire and promote the political careers of Mayor Willie Brown, the late Representative Philip Burton, SenatorJohn Burton, and Representative Ron Dellums[1].

Housing protest

Willie Brown came into the public eye through a well planned incident.

Willie and Blanche Brown needed a home closer to his law office.Blanche was now the wife of an attorney, and she wanted a fitting place to raise a family. Toward the end of May 1961, she visited the Forest Knolls housing development on the western slope of Mount Sutro, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The homes were listed at $23,950 to $33,950, probably well beyond the Browns' financial reach.

Blanche and a friend, Dorothy Lincoln, looked at a model at Forest Knolls. She remembered that she and her friend stayed for more than three hours. "There was a house that was open, so just on a lark we said, well, let's go in and see. Let's go see the house. And as we went in, everybody ran out. They literally ran out of the house. They ran to the garage. We used the telephone and we called Willie, and he said just stay there and wait and see what happens. So we stayed there and we stayed there and finally they sent a black caretaker to close up the house. They said they were not going to show it anymore."

The events catapulting Brown into a public figure may not have started precisely the way his wife remembered thirty years after the fact. A now-defunct liberal news magazine, Frontier , reported at the time that Willie Brown visited the housing tract before his wife, and brought with him a photographer from Carlton Goodlett's Sun-Reporter , an indication that his motives extended beyond just house hunting. Frontier and the article's author, Stephen L. Sanger, had closer access to the NAACP at the time than many of the mainstream news organizations, and his report therefore cannot be discounted.

Willie Brown later portrayed what happened next as a spontaneous protest. The Associated Press called it "impromptu," but there was nothing impromptu about it.The next step was well-planned, brilliantly executed political theater. Brown turned a private humiliation into a public display that captured the imagination of an entire city. It was the first inkling that Brown's political talents were far greater than those of his mentor, Terry Francois, and could meet greater challenges than the stifling branch politics of the NAACP.

That Sunday, the Brown family went to church. Then the twenty-seven-year-old Willie Brown led his wife and two baby daughters to the housing development. They were accompanied by Terry Francois and a few other friends. The local newspapers were alerted well ahead of their arrival, and reporters were waiting when they got there. The sales representatives again disappeared, so the Browns and their friends sat down in the garage. They kept the development sales office closed for the day, and Forest Knolls was the butt of stories in the newspapers. A newspaper photograph taken that day shows Brown in a neatly creased suit leading his children by the hand to the housing development. They were the picture of a professional, middle-class family. How could anyone object to having them live next door? The photograph was a developer's nightmare and campaign manager's dream.

The tract was developed by Carl and Fred Gellert, whose Standard Building Company was the largest housing developer in the city.

In the days ahead the protest escalated, with Negroes taking turns being snubbed at the Forest Knolls development. Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson showed up and marched on the picket line. Whites also joined the protest, and it became a cause célèbre in San Francisco's liberal circles. Among those who joined Willie Brown's picket line was Dianne Berman, the wife of a prominent attorney. "My stroller bumped up against the heels of the man in front of me in the line, and it was Terry Francois," she recalled. Years later, as Dianne Feinstein, she became mayor of San Francisco and then a United States senator from California. She liked to tell the story that the bumping of the carriage was her first introduction to Francois and, through him, to Willie Brown. Throughout her career Feinstein enjoyed a mutually beneficial political friendship with Willie Brown, and it began on the Forest Knolls picket line.

There would be no police with dogs and firehoses moving on Willie Brown and his friends. Some of the city's most prominent citizens joined the protest. The future mayor, Feinstein, was the daughter of an illustrious surgeon, and her husband was in line to be a judge.[2]

W.E.B. DuBois Club

Willie Brown was elected to the California Assembly in 1964 as a left-wing Democrat with the backing of the Marxist W. E. B. DuBois Club, the youth wing of the Communist Party USA.[3]

Terence Tyrone Hallinan is the hardest-left D.A. in the country and easily as colorful a figure as the mayor. As cultural historian Stephen Schwartz recounts, Hallinan was a student radical at Berkeley in the sixties, teaching seminars on Marxism-Leninism in his father's law offices, rechristened the "San Francisco School for Social Science." Back in those heady days he went by the nom de guerre "Kayo." He also helped run the communist W. E. B. Dubois Club at Berkeley, where he first met—and cultivated—a young lawyer, Willie Brown. Police arrested Kayo frequently in his youth for theft and several violent assaults, one of which landed a stranger in the hospital with a broken jaw in an unprovoked attack. A light-heavyweight boxer at Berkeley, Kayo was not averse to pounding political opponents—Trotskyists particularly irked him—into submission with his well-practiced fists.[4]

The key to Brown's 1964 campaign was voter registration in the black neighborhoods. Brown's registration drive in the Eighteenth Assembly District netted 5,577 new Democratic voters in three months, a staggering number for the era. Many of the frontline troops registering voters had been among those arrested in the civil rights demonstrations. Terence Hallinan organized his radical friends from the W.E.B. Du Bois Club into the "Youth Committee for Assemblyman Brown," which worked primarily on voter registration. Hallinan kept the youth committee active for two years, helping Brown to permanently harden his base of support in his district. In later years, registration drives underpinned Brown's campaigns for favored Assembly candidates when he became Speaker. His first effort in the science was impressive.[5]

County Attorney campaign


Robert Scheer and Willie Brown were involved in Robert Treuhaft's 1966 run the Alameda County District Attorney.

National Youth Caucus

Over 250 students from 71 Northern California colleges gathered at a National Youth Caucus (NYC) conference Saturday in an effort to insure maximum representation of 18-24 year-olds at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. The conference was held at San Jose State College. A California Black Caucus also met Saturday at Garden Oaks School in East Palo Alto, drawing about 300 blacks from Northern California. Assemblyman Willie Brown (Dem—San Francisco) told the delegates that a solid concentration of black political power could give them considerable influence at the Democratic National Convention in Miami in July. He encouraged them to vote for a black candidate on the first ballot at the convention, no matter who they might actually be supporting. Rep. Shirley Chisholm (Dem—New York) is the only black candidate so far. Both meetings discussed youth representation at the February 12 district caucuses which each presidential candidate will hold to recommend a slate of pledged delegates and a representative to the candidate's state organizing committee.

Leading the Stanford delegation to the youth conference were ASSU Co-President Larry Diamond, Paula Johnson, Joel Kenwood, Connie Peterson and Zach Zwerdling. They are the five members of the central committee of Northern California's NYC Conference. Diamond also serves as State Chairman of the California NYC. Sen. Alan Cranston (Dem—Calif.) told the opening session of the conference that the NYC "can do a lot to shape the choices this nation and this state make next year." He added that he shared young people's "frustration over the way things are going", but that he also believed that "change can be achieved with a little more effort and organization."

Like Cranston, State Assemblyman Ken Meade (Dem—Berkeley) spoke of the power of young people in the elctoral process. Meade noted that in 1968 President Nixon carried California by 500,000 votes and that there will be at least 1.5 million 18-24 year olds casting their first votes in 1972. Taking these figures into account, Meade said that "without carrying California, Nixon would not have been elected President in 1968 and the youth vote assures that he will not win in 1972." He advised "Don't just work within the system, take advantage of it." San Francisco Sheriff Richard Hongisto claimed that "policemen are moving us towards a police state from the bottom all the way up to Attorney General John Mitchell." Hongisto, who has been a law enforcement officer for several years, was the upset winner in his race to be elected Sheriff last year. He urged his audience to "work to destroy those racist, sexist stereotypes of our decadent society." National Chairman of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) Allard Lowenstein, a former New York Congressman and organizer of the 1968 "Dump Johnson" movement, said that "four more years of an administration steeped in deception" would be severely damaging to "the whole fabric of freedom in this country."

Speakers at the closing session of the conference were state Assemblyman John Burton, former Stanford Black Student Union president Leo Bazile, and Yvonne Westbrook unsuccessful candidate last year for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.[6]

"Emergency Conference of New Voters"

In an effort to increase student power in electoral politics, an estimated 1600 Bay area students will gather November 18, 1971 at 8:30 p.m. in Memorial Auditorium to voice their opposition to President Nixon and the Vietnam War. Main speakers at the rally will be Republican Congressman and Presidential candidate Pete McCloskey, (R-San Mateo); former New York Congressman Allard Lowenstein (now Chairman of the Americans for Democratic Action); Senator Alan Cranston (Dem.-Calif.) and John Kerry, spokesman of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The "Emergency Conference of New Voters" is being organized by the student body presidents of 19 local colleges and universities to "ignite students into seizing the political process to change the country," according to ASSU co-president Larry Diamond. The student leaders feel that although President Nixon is winding down that war for middle class American college students, he is increasing the horrors for the victims of our bombing policy in Cambodia and the two Vietnams. They assert that the President has no moral justification for his policies and that he has been dishonest in presenting those policies and their effects to the American people.

In keeping with the goal of increasing student political power those attending the rally will have the opportunity to register to vote in California elections. Between 7 and 8 p.m., a preliminary conference will be held on registration laws and on 1972 convention delegate selection and party reform.. Explaining that the 19 colleges to be represented at the rally have 189,000 potential voters enrolled as students, a rally organizer warned President Nixon that "We've got the votes, we're getting organized and by 1972, we'll drive you out of office." In addition to the four main speakers, those scheduled to appear at the rally are Congressman Donald W. Riegle, Jr. (Rep.-Mich.); State Senate Majority Leader George Moscone; Assemblyman Willie Brown, (Dem.-San Francisco); Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (Dem.-San Jose); and Yvonne Westbrook, the 18 year old black woman who ran for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this year.

The Conference is the twenty-fourth and last in a series of local rallies held across the nation since May in such diverse locations as Providence, R. 1.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Austin. Texas. ADA Chairman Lowenstein, who led the "Dump Johnson" movement after 1967, has been providing volunteer manpower to aid most of the local rallies. A national conference of new voters will be held at. Loyola University in Chicago December 3-5. A similar conference in 1967 endorsed Senator Eugene McCarthy's candidacy for President. The ASSU is now raising funds from private sources to send Stanford delegates to the Chicago conference.[7]

Cablegram to Portugese Socialists and the M.F.A.

In 1974, after a pro-communist military coup in Portugal;

More than eighty Americans, all identified with opposition to the Vietnamese war and with various radical and liberal causes, sent on August 9 a cablegram to to the Portugese Armed Forces Movement, to Portugese president francisco da Costa Gomes and to portugese socialist leader Mario soares expressing the hope that "democratic freedoms"...will continue to grow in Portugal".

Michael Harrington, the national chairman of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, organized the effort with help from 5 "Initiators" - Lawrence Birns (writer), Sissy Farenthold (past president National Women's Political Caucus), Congressman Michael J. Harrington, Martin Peretz (chairman, editorial board New Republic), Cleveland Robinson (vice president, Distributive Workers of America), Leonard Woodcock (president United Auto Workers, Jerry Wurf (president AFSME).

Elected officials who signed the cablegram included: Julian Bond, Willie Brown, Jr., John Conyers, Jr., Don Edwards, William Gluba, Edward J. Koch, Parren J. Mitchell, Henry S. Reuss, Benjamin S. Rosenthal and Louis Stokes.[8]

South Africa benefit

On January 17 1986, a benefit concert was held at Oakland's Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, for the National Emergency Fund of the South African Council of Churches.

Dinner Committee Members included Hon. Alan Cranston, Hon. Leo McCarthy, Hon. Barbara Boxer, Hon. Sala Burton, Hon. Ron Dellums (a DSA member), Hon. Don Edwards, Hon. Tom Lantos Hon. George Miller, Jr. Hon. Norman Mineta, Hon. Pete Stark, Hon. Willie Brown, plus Democratic Socialists of America members Julian Bond, Nancy Skinner, Harry Britt, John Henning, Adam Hochschild, Frances Moore Lappe, Stanley Sheinbaum, Communist Party USA affiliates Wilson Riles, Jr., Maudelle Shirek, Al Lannon, and Irving Sarnoff, and radical socialists Julianne Malveaux, Drummond Pike, John George, Peter Yarrow and actor/activist Sidney Poitier.[9]


California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, was Jesse Jackson's national campaign chair in 1988.[10]

Greeting Chris Hani

Eight hundred people filled the ballroom of the Hyatt regency Embarcadero Hotel, Sunday April 28, 1991 to greet South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani. the crowd contributed more than $12,000 towards the People's Weekly World fund drive and the work of the South African Communist Party.

Hani was greeted with resolutions of support from Assembly speaker Willie Brown, San Francisco mayor Art Agnos, Oakland mayor Elihu Harris, Richmond mayor George Livingston, Berkeley mayor Loni Hancock, and Doris Ward, chair of the San Francisco board of Supervisors.

Co-chairs of the banquet were were Angela Davis and Ignacio de la Fuente of the Moulders Union.

Davis, introducing Hani said he "symbolizes a courageous, unrelenting struggle for freedom".[11]

KPFA protest

According to Tahnee Stair of the Workers World Party, Fifteen thousand people marched through the streets of Berkeley, Calif., July 31, 1999 chanting: "Whose station? Our station!" The protesters were demonstrating in support of KPFA community radio and the locked-out workers at the station.

Buses came from many Northern California cities, bringing people to participate in the show of unity. Marchers demanded that the Pacifica Foundation, which owns KPFA, stop the drive to privatize the 50-year-old, listener-sponsored, progressive radio station.

Days before the march, Pacifica management had announced to the media that they would end the three-week worker lockout, lift an ongoing gag rule around the struggle, and turn control of programming over to the Communications Workers union. Despite this announcement, huge crowds came out to support the struggle for "free speech radio."

Although mediation was under way, Pacifica Foundation managers simply made an announcement of their terms to the media--not to the workers or community/ union steering committee. The foundation also gave no assurances about future ownership of the station.

The announcement was clearly aimed at defusing the growing mobilization for the mass march. It failed.

Since April, resistance to Pacific's policy of transforming KPFA into a National-Public-Radio-type mouthpiece for ruling-class interests has sharply increased. Listeners don't want to make the station more acceptable to major corporations--for donations--and to conservative audiences.

Popular KPFA staffers were fired. The Pacifica board insisted no one at its stations--which include WBAI in New York--report on the internal struggle.

When talk-show host Dennis Bernstein refused to accept this gag rule in early July, management hired goons from IPSA Security to drag him from the station.

News that the Pacifica board of directors was discussing selling the station was leaked to the media. A fight-back movement immediately began to grow throughout the Bay Area. It culminated in the mass march.

Rally speakers and performers included: spoken word and rap artist Michael Franti from Spearhead; the All Nations Drum; Barbara Lubin of Friends of Free Speech Radio and the Middle East Children's Alliance; Underground Railroad; Rachel Jackson of STORM (Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement); Andrea Buffa of Media Alliance; KPFA interns Akilah Monifa, Waymon, J. Imani and others; well-known Hip Hop DJ Davey D; San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean; and KPFA programmers Miguel Molina, Chuy Varela, Dennis Bernstein, Larry Bensky and Susan Stone.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano led the lesbian/gay/bi/trans contingent.

Fired station manager Nicole Sawaya was greeted with a standing ovation and thunderous applause when she addressed the crowd.

Labor participation was very strong. Farm Workers Vice President Dolores Huerta and California Federation of Labor President Tom Rankin led the union presence. Leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Service Employees Local 250 hospital workers, California Nurses Association, Communication Workers Local 9415 representing KPFA workers, and both the Alameda and San Francisco Central Labor Councils expressed solidarity with the struggle to save KPFA.

Rosa Peñate and Richard Becker spoke for the International Action Center. Peñate explained that the real aim of the Pacifica board and the forces behind them is "the destruction of progressive media which can mobilize the people for action. We are not fooled and we are not going away. The International Action Center joins with the many other organizations and individuals in the Bay Area and beyond in defending KPFA."

Other speakers and co-chairs included Dorsey Nunn of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Jeff Mackler of Socialist Action, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, CBeyond, a high school students' organization, and Vic Bedoian, executive director of KFCF radio in Fresno.[12]

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris met Willie Brown in 1994 when he was speaker of the state Assembly.

According to SF Weekly;

She was 29, he was 60. Their May/December affair was the talk of the town during the year before Brown's successful 1995 bid to become mayor. But shortly after he was inaugurated, Harris dumped Brown, a notorious womanizer.

Brown appointed her to two patronage positions in state government that paid handsomely — more than $400,000 over five years. In 1994, she took a six-month leave of absence from her Alameda County job to join the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Brown then appointed her to the California Medical Assistance Commission, where she served until 1998, attending two meetings a month for a $99,000 annual salary.[13]

Endorsed Communist Party fund raiser

Peoples Weekly World, September 11, 1999

In September 1999, Willie L. Brown, Jr. Mayor of San Francisco , co-sponsored a Communist Party USA fund raising event in Berkeley. Rep. Barbara Lee co-sponsored the same event. [14]

People's Weekly World Banquet 2000

Co-sponsors of the October 8 2000 Bay area People's Weekly World banquet, at His Lordships, Berkeley Marina, included San Francisco mayor Willie L. Brown, the vice mayors of Berkeley and Oakland.

Sponsors included Amy Dean, South Bay Labor Council and Walter Johnson, San Francisco Labor Council. Entertainment was provided by David Winters.

Honorees were;

Honoring Harry Bridges

On July 30 2001, a ribbon cutting ceremony for the dedication of Harry Bridges Plaza in San Francisco. Mayor Willie Brown led the event. Joining him on the platform were Rep. Nancy Pelosi, County supervisor Adam Peskin, Port Commission vice chairman and former ILWU president Brian McWilliams and Bridges' widow Nikki Bridges Flynn.

Messages came from Gov. Gray Davis, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Assemblyman Kevin Shelley.[16]

Honoring Cesar Chavez

There was a major march through the streets of San Francisco on March 24, 2002 to mark the 75th birthday of United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez. Parade Grand Marshalls included two UFW founders Dolores Huerta, and Cesar's brother Richard Chavez, as well as Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

At the march rally UFW Arturo Rodriguez spoke of the continuing legacy of Chavez.

Other speakers included;


Charlotte Schultz (in green) watches as Rose Pak speaks.

Charlotte Shultz organized the largest welcome ceremony in the history of SF Airport for Rose Pak in 2016 after she received a kidney transplant surgery in China."[18]


"From the greeting by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and two former mayors to the Rolls-Royce ride — complete with police escort — it would be hard to imagine anyone from President Obama on down topping the welcome for Chinatown majordomo Rose Pak on her return to the city.
"The 300 greeters who took the drive out to the airport Monday for Pak’s welcome–home from China, where she underwent months of kidney treatment, included former Mayors Gavin Newsom and Willie Brown, Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Jane Kim, Norman Yee and David Campos, Public Defender Jeff Adachi and City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
"Also there was Academy of Art University President Elisa Stephens — whom Herrera just sued, claiming the school has illegally converted 22 buildings in the city into student housing and other uses.
"Even acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin made the pilgrimage.
"Pak wasted little time tossing out barbs as she emerged from customs, with Herrera being the first target.
"“Are you going to serve me papers?” Pak mockingly asked, referring to the scrutiny she and her Chinatown allies have received in the past mostly from the district attorney’s office over their campaign tactics. “Or are you here to serve the mayor papers?”
"Pak also publicly chided Herrera for suing her pal Stephens. After such pleasantries, she joined Brown and Public Works chief Mohammed Nuru in a burgundy Rolls-Royce from the Academy of Art’s classic-car collection and headed to a Chinatown luncheon — escorted by SFPD motorcycle officers.
"“It was a Fellini movie — if it had been filmed for reality TV, nobody would have believed it,” said San Francisco PR agent Lee Houskeeper, who was among the spectators.
"“Every year, tens of millions come and go from San Francisco International, but this is the first time I’ve seen a civic event of these proportions at the airport,” Peskin said. “It was actually quite entertaining.”
"The entertainment continued at the Far East Cafe, where Pak was flanked at a luncheon banquet by Brown, Chaplin and police Deputy Chief Garret Tom, a longtime Pak protege who has been mentioned as a candidate for the chief’s job.
"Also at the head table were Campos, Kim and Peskin — who defeated Lee’s hand-picked candidate for his supervisor’s seat last year, with Pak’s help.
"As for the mayor, he missed the banquet — instead catching a flight to D.C. for a gun-safety conference at the White House. In doing so, he missed Pak’s expletive-laden remarks at the luncheon, laying in to Brown for persuading her to push Lee to run for mayor back in 2011.
"Pak got a new kidney as part of her treatment in China, and said her doctor told her she could expect to live another 40 years. She said she needed only 15 years, including 10 to get the Ping Yuen public housing complex in Chinatown rebuilt.
"And the other five years?
"“To get even with the people who wished me dead.”

Relationship with Jiang Zemin


In his final visit to the United States as Chinese president, Jiang Zemin stopped over in the Bay Area Monday to cement long-standing ties with San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and the city's influential Chinese American community.

At a private luncheon hosted by Brown at San Francisco International Airport, the 76-year-old Jiang spoke warmly about his relationship with San Francisco. Two decades back, as mayor of Shanghai, he cultivated the sister- city relationship with then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

Jiang chose to make the farewell stop in the Bay Area because "he's an old friend of Mayor Brown," said Wang Ling, a press attache at San Francisco's Chinese Consulate. "You know Mayor Brown has been (on trade missions) to China three times, and each time he's met with President Jiang. So, they have a very good relationship."

Chinese leaders also have cultivated political ties with San Francisco's powerful Asian community. "One of the strongest characteristics that the Chinese have is loyalty and friendship," said Rose Pak, a Chinatown power broker and Brown supporter.

During China's aggressive, successful campaign to become host for the 2008 Olympic Games, Pak said San Francisco's 150,000-strong Chinese American community gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures of support to counter opponents who cited the People's Republic's human rights record.

Now, she hopes China will support San Francisco's dream of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games. "You don't think China's government has a lot of influence with Latin American and African countries?" she said, referring to the potential for Chinese lobbying when the U.S. host city nominee seeks be chosen by the International Olympic Committee in 2005.

In 1979, San Francisco and Shanghai declared themselves sister cities. Since then, mayors from Feinstein to Brown have nurtured the China connection, cultivating business leaders in Shanghai, mainland China's business capital, and national politicians in Beijing, the political capital.

After leading a trade delegation of Bay Area executives to China in September 1998, Brown announced a deal between the San Francisco office of the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and the Shanghai P & K Development Corp. to redesign and refurbish parts of the Shanghai waterfront.

No deals were announced Monday, but the conviviality of the affair showed how far transpacific relationship-building has come, according to San Francisco lawyer Claudine Cheng, who attended the lunch.

"It was a unique occasion," said Cheng, who chairs the Treasure Island Development Authority and accompanied Brown on a 1997 trade mission to China. "The president of China got up and sang. He sang three songs, in Chinese and English. He obviously felt comfortable. He didn't have to stop here."[19]