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. Two years later, he took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1960, he left the Society of Jesus and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. He received his B.A. 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 to California Supreme Court Justice Mathew Tobriner, 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 1968, he helped qualify a slate of presidential delegates to oppose the re-nomination of President Lyndon Johnson. The following year, 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. During his term, he forced legislators to comply with campaign disclosure laws, exposed President Nixon’s use of falsely notarized documents to improperly earn a large tax deduction and drafted and helped pass by statewide initiative the California Fair Political Practices Act. Brown personally argued before the state Supreme Court and won against Gulf, Mobile and Standard Oil for election law violations (Brown vs. Superior Court)
Brown was elected Governor in 1974 and reelected in 1978, by over one million votes.
During Governor Brown’s tenure, California produced 25% of the nation's new jobs. His eight years in office are generally considered among the most innovative in American history. He established the first agricultural labor relations law in the country, enacted collective bargaining for teachers and other public employees, started the California Conservation Corp (CCC), signed into permanent law the California Coastal Protection Act, earned federal protection of Northern California wild and scenic rivers, brought about the country's first building and appliance energy efficiency standards and made California the leader in solar and alternative energy.
Brown appointed more women, Asians, Latinos and African-Americans to high government positions than any other chief executive. He also created the nation’s first Wellness Commission, the Office of Appropriate Technology, the Native American Heritage Preservation Commission and the California Commission on Industrial Innovation. As president of the University of California Regents, Brown successfully sponsored the establishment of the prestigious Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.
Brown legalized the practice of Acupuncture and strongly supported the rights of chiropractors, osteopaths and lay midwives. He also significantly expanded apprenticeship programs and created the California Worksite Education and Training Act (CWETA). He mandated every high school district to establish clear graduation standards and successfully lobbied for increased math and science requirements for both the California State University and University of California systems.
In the field of crime fighting, 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. As a result, the percentage convicted felons who were sent to prison--instead of probation and county jail--jumped more 100% during his governorship.
Finally, Brown restructured the California Arts Commission so that it was composed of practicing artists and increased funding by 1300%.
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% 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% 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 6th grade through the 12th and are among the best performing schools in Oakland. During his 8 years as Mayor, the number of serious crimes was reduced by over 30% compared to the previous 8 year period.
On June 18, 2005, Brown married Anne Gust in a ceremony officiated by Senator 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.