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Ron Brown was born on this date in 1941 in Washington, D. C. He was a businessman and politician who was the first Black to serve as chairman of a national political party.
Ronald H. Brown grew up in Harlem, graduated from Middlebury College in 1962, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. After his service, Brown worked for the National Urban League in New York while earning his law degree at night from St. John's University. He held several positions at the Urban League from 1968 to 1979, including general counsel, chief Washington spokesperson, deputy executive director, and vice-president of Washington operations. Brown became active in the Democratic Party, and in 1979, served as deputy manager of Senator Edward Kennedy's presidential campaign.
He left politics in 1986 to become a partner in a Washington law firm. In 1988, Brown returned to politics as the convention manager for Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. He was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 1989, the first Black in either political party to serve in that capacity. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed him Secretary of Commerce, the first Black to hold that position. He was widely credited with revitalizing the department.
In 1996, Brown and 34 others were on a three-day economic tour of the Balkans for the Department of Commerce when their plane crashed during stormy weather. Brown died; his wife Alma, and their two children survive him. In December of that same year, the Ron Brown Scholar program was was established, sponsored, and funded by the CAP Charitable Foundation.
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.