Jerry Brown has served as secretary of state, attorney general and governor for the state of California. (Courtesy photo)
Edmund G. Brown Jr., known as Jerry, was born in San Francisco on April 7, 1938. He attended both public and parochial schools, graduating from St. Ignatius High School in 1955. He completed freshman year at the University of Santa Clara before entering Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary in August 1956. In 1960, he left the Society of Jesus and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in classics the next year and then entered Yale Law School, where he graduated in 1964.
Following law school, Brown worked as a law clerk at the California Supreme Court, traveled and studied in Mexico and Latin America and then took up residence in Los Angeles, working for the prestigious law firm Tuttle & Taylor. In 1969, Brown was elected to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees, placing first in a field of 124. In 1970, he was elected California Secretary of State.
Brown was elected governor in 1974 and re-elected in 1978, by a margin of 21 percent.
During Gov. Brown’s tenure, California created 1.9 million new jobs, almost double the national rate. During his eight years in office, Brown marshaled both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to slow the growth of state government, eliminate capital gains taxes for many small businesses, abolish the business inventory tax, index personal income taxes, adopt the nation’s first energy efficiency standards, and make California the leader in co-generation, solar and wind energy.
As governor, Brown consistently had budgets approved on time and built a prudent budget surplus to serve as a “rainy day fund.” He reduced the number of state employees per 1,000 Californians from 9.6 in 1975 to 9.2 in 1982. The tax burden for California residents declined from $6.90 per $100 of income in 1975 to $6.72 in 1982.
While curbing the growth of state government, Brown instituted cutting-edge environmental protections that became guidelines for the nation to follow. He strengthened the California Coastal Commission and established comprehensive policies governing development along the coast. He signed the nation’s first legislation requiring high school students to demonstrate basic proficiency before graduation. State funding for higher education, including community colleges, more than doubled during Brown’s eight years as governor.
In the field of crime fighting, Gov. Brown enacted hundreds of tough anti-crime measures, including the “Use A Gun Go To Prison” Law and mandatory sentences for rape, sale of heroin, violent crimes against the elderly, child molestation and selling PCP. He established and funded the Career Criminal Prosecution Program, the Career Criminal Apprehension Program and the Crime Resistance Task Force.
After his governorship, Brown lectured widely, led delegations to China and the Soviet Union, studied Spanish in Mexico, spent six months in Japan studying Japanese culture and Buddhist practice, worked with Mother Teresa in India at the Home for the Dying and traveled to Bangladesh as a CARE ambassador of good will during the devastating floods of 1987.
Brown again practiced law in Los Angeles and in 1989 became chairman of the state Democratic Party. He resigned that position in 1991, expressing frustration with the growing influence of money in politics, and sought the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination. During that campaign he refused to take contributions larger than $100 and used an "800" number to raise funds.
Despite limited financial resources, Brown defeated Bill Clinton in Maine, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, Utah and Nevada during the 1992 presidential primaries and was the only candidate other than Clinton to receive enough voter support to continue until the Democratic National Convention.
In 1998, Brown ran for mayor of Oakland against 11 other candidates and won in the primary with 59 percent of the vote. Before taking office, he successfully passed a voter initiative, changing the ceremonial office of mayor to that of a “strong mayor” form of city government. Brown was re-elected in 2002 with 64 percent of the vote.
As mayor, Brown spearheaded the revitalization of a downtown that had been dormant for decades. He helped create new housing units for more than 10,000 people, re-opened the beautiful Fox Theatre (which had been shuttered for 30 years), and attracted many new restaurants, businesses and art galleries to the city. Brown also personally founded the renowned Oakland School for the Arts (housed in the Fox Theatre) and the Oakland Military Institute. Both schools serve students from the sixth grade through the 12th and are among the best performing schools in Oakland. During his eight years as mayor, the number of serious crimes was reduced by over 30 percent compared to the previous eight year period.
On June 18, 2005, Brown married Anne Gust in a ceremony officiated by Sen. Diane Feinstein. Later the same day, they had a Catholic ceremony at St. Agnes, the San Francisco church where Jerry was baptized and his parents were married. The marriage is the first for both.
In 2006, Brown was elected California’s 31st attorney general with the largest margin of victory of any candidate running for statewide office.
As attorney general, Brown has fought for consumers and workers by pursuing those who perpetrated massive mortgage fraud, suing unscrupulous employers for not paying wages and benefits required by state law, shutting down companies that have jeopardized worker safety, and prosecuting businesses that have bilked California's workers' compensation system or otherwise circumvented state tax and employment laws. Brown has sued medical laboratories for massive overcharges, stopped rip-offs in the Medi-Cal program, cracked down on unlawful abuse of prescription drugs, fought misleading ad campaigns by major drug companies and arrested nursing home operators for forcibly drugging elderly patients.
Brown has also cracked down on violent gangs, and worked closely with local police and sheriffs to apprehend dangerous criminals, con artists and major perpetrators of fraud and financial crimes. As California's chief law enforcement officer, Brown leads a team of special agents and dedicated staff who conduct criminal investigations, enforce firearms laws and regulations, and manage the state's crime labs, including the third largest DNA database in the world.
On environmental issues, Brown has long been recognized as a national leader and as attorney general he has led the fight against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to stop pollution of water and air, defended California’s landmark tailpipe emission laws, and actively promoted local land use policies that reduce oil dependency and global warming.
Finally, Brown substantially lowered the costs of the Department of Justice to help resolve the state’s fiscal deficit. He streamlined the number of departmental positions and programs, resulting in an annual budget reduction in the state’s general fund of approximately $100 million, the elimination of more than 720 positions and the restructuring of 10 budgeted divisions into four.
Source: Jerry Brown Governor 2010 campaign