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Willie Brown: A Biography Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (November 28, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520213157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520213159
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,337,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1992, after returning from a meeting with Brown (formerly Speaker of California's state assembly and now the mayor of San Francisco), presidential candidate Bill Clinton noted that he had met "the real slick Willie." Brown is flashy (his suits generally cost $2500 and his cars run to Porsches and Jaguars) and ballsy (he answered charges of corruption by appearing in Godfather III taking campaign contributions from Mafia Don Michael Corleone), but most of all he is a consummate politician. Born in 1934 in Mineola, Tex. Brown came to California in 1951, where he got an education in law at Hastings College of the Law and a political education at local branches of the Young Democrats and the NAACP. In 1964, he was elected to the state assembly?the first African American legislator to represent San Francisco in that body. The next year, he rose to national prominence when friends appended his name to a telegram urging foreign leaders to prevent further escalation of the Vietnam war, making him, according to Richardson, "something of a founder of the antiwar movement, however accidental his involvement was." In 1980, he was made Speaker of the Assembly, a position he held until 1995 by juggling campaign contributions, committee assignments, offices, staff, parking spaces and personal favors to keep "at least forty-one of his eighty members happy at any given time." This is not a personal biography: Brown's wife and children appear only as counterpoints to his innumerable extramarital affairs. Nor does the author pay much attention to the larger cultural issues.(Richardson says of the Watts riots only, that "black leaders in California were galvanized by the 1965 Watts riot like no other single event.") What Richardson, a senior writer on the Sacramento Bee, does, and does well, is portray Brown as the archetypal political animal, astute, flexible and extraordinarily lucky. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Willie Brown, the current mayor of San Francisco, served as speaker of the California Assembly longer than anyone in the state's history (1980-95). Richardson, a senior writer for the Sacramento Bee, has written a biography of Brown that portrays him as a political pragmatist, a skilled negotiator, and a talented builder of legislative coalitions. Although a liberal African American Democrat, Brown on a number of occasions induced white Republican legislators to join his coalitions. Richardson's book, in combination with John Jacobs's excellent biography of Brown's mentor, former California Congressman Phillip Burton (A Rage for Justice: The Passion and Politics of Phillip Burton, LJ 8/95), provides a reasonably comprehensive overview of modern California politics. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
Thomas H. Ferrell, Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Clemens on January 25, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richardson has overlooked no musty archive, no potential interviewee, and no pesty detail in his amazing book about Assemblyman, Speaker, Speaker Emeritus, and now Mayor Brown. An essential read to understand Northern California and California politics from the seventies to the present day.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Jim Richardson not only tells us the compelling story of one of California's most dominant politicians, he also paints a portrait of California politics in the late 20th Century. Richardson's account is crisply written, intelligent and revealing. He uncovers raw history and presents anecdotes that transport the reader right into the backrooms and quiet corridors of power. "Willie Brown" is reminiscent of Robert Caro's treatment of Lyndon Baines Johnson, although Richardson's work is far less repetitive. The book is a must-read for people who want or need to know about the seminal issues of late-20th Century California -- and about the sometimes larger-than-life figures who shaped the debate and influenced policies
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Jim Richardson not only tells us the compelling story of one of California's most dominant politicians, he also paints a portrait of California politics in the late 20th Century. Richardson's account is crisply written, intelligent and revealing. He uncovers raw history and presents anecdotes that transport the reader right into the backrooms and quiet corridors of power. "Willie Brown" is reminiscent of Robert Caro's treatment of Lyndon Baines Johnson, although Richardson's work is far less repetitive. The book is a must-read for people who want or need to know about the seminal issues of late-20th Century California -- and about the sometimes larger-than-life figures who shaped the debate and influenced policies
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Online Buyer on March 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is probably the best biography I have ever read due to an extremely good writer. Richardson has a fascinating character to start with so that helps. In learning about Brown one learns a lot about California politics and politics in general. Nothing is hugely surprising but it is all riveting and I don't think I could say this about any other book I've read where politics is a main topic. However, what makes the book stand out is the excellent journalism. Richardson's writing is thorough without repetition or dry minutiae. He employs humor where appropriate and has objective insights. He also avoids the popular "new journalism" approach of making up conversations or other facts he couldn't possibly know about--a pet peeve of mine (think Bob Woodward).

It appears to me in reading the reviewers giving low ratings that they are miffed Richardson's account doesn't have a right-wing non-objective slant. To the extent you can discern any slant at all (and the book is quite objective) it's a middle of the road view, not liberal.
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