Ron Brown

Brown, Ron (Ronald Harmon Brown), 1941–96, American politician, b. Washington, D.C. Raised in New York City's Harlem, he attended Middlebury College (grad. 1962) and St. John's Law School (grad. 1970). A lifelong Democrat, he worked at the National Urban League (1966–78) before becoming a top aide to Senator Edward Kennedy (1979–81). After a stint as a partner in a private law and lobbying firm in Washington (1985–88), he managed the presidential bid of Jesse Jackson (1988) and was the first African American to serve as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1989–92), where he successfully charted a centrist course. A skilled political operative and deal maker with an engagingly suave personal style, Brown had an ideology that mixed liberal concerns with capitalist savvy and was a classic Washington insider. He played a key role in unifying Democrats behind the presidential candidacy of Bill Clinton (1992) and made an effective secretary of commerce (1993–96) in Clinton's administration. Brown was killed in an airplane crash while on a trade mission to Croatia.

See biography by S. A. Holmes (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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