Life and Times of Ron Brown: A Memoir by His Daughter

Life and Times of Ron Brown: A Memoir by His Daughter

by Tracey L. Brown
     
 

In The Life and Times of Ron Brown, his daughter, Tracey L. Brown, shares a touching account of the person and the politician, and a candid look at one of this century's most compelling figures. From his earliest days growing up in Harlem's Hotel Theresa, the legendary mecca for dignitaries and celebrities like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fidel Castro, and Joe Louis,… See more details below

Overview

In The Life and Times of Ron Brown, his daughter, Tracey L. Brown, shares a touching account of the person and the politician, and a candid look at one of this century's most compelling figures. From his earliest days growing up in Harlem's Hotel Theresa, the legendary mecca for dignitaries and celebrities like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fidel Castro, and Joe Louis, Ron Brown displayed a precocious intellect and an ability to make friends readily. Educated at Vermont's Middlebury College, he became the first black member of the school's Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, one of the several "firsts" in his life. The Life and Times of Ron Brown reveals his accomplishments - as the first black officer to serve in his army unit, the first black leader of a national political party, and the first black commerce secretary - and sensitively examines what it meant for Ron Brown to be a minority achiever in a predominantly white world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
At various times perfunctory and highly personal, this memoir by the daughter of President Clinton's first secretary of commerce, who died in a plane crash in Croatia in 1996, combines elements of formal biography with intimate family memories. The author, a deputy D.A. in Los Angeles, begins with a detailed description of the tragic accident that killed her father and 34 others. She then covers his rise from a comfortable childhood in Harlem through his years of good work with the Urban League. Brown turned to politics and managed Senator Edward Kennedy's failed 1979 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. With time out in the 1980s to work as a Washington lobbyist, Brown managed Jesse Jackson's presidential bid at the 1988 convention then went on to head the Democratic National Committee from 1989 to 1992. Clinton is quoted as saying he would not have been elected without Brown, whom he rewarded with a cabinet post. The author's personal touches are often rather teasing, alighting on such everyday matters as her father's inept driving and mania for neatness, while some of the long stretches of his professional lifealways described here as personal triumphsseem a bit labored. The final chapters lose much of the focus trying to explore the cause of the plane crash, detailing the many memorials to Brown and recording the author's personal anguish. The memoir is clearly a labor of love. (Apr.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Ron Brown lost his life in a 1996 air crash just as his star had begun to rise within the Democratic Party. After a dozen years with the National Urban League, he had joined the Washington, D.C., law firm of Patton, Boggs and Blow as its first African American partner. Enjoying politics more than law practice, he became the first black to head the Democratic National Committee, then was appointed the first African American Secretary of Commerce. His only daughter, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles, recounts his life based upon oral interviews with family and friends. She tells a moving story. Brown never ran for elected office, but he had aspirations of becoming the first African American president. Interestingly both Brown and Bill Clinton came from broken homes and exhibited an eagerness to please, both had a special love for their offspring, and both could get along with all kinds of people. (Each also underwent investigation by independent counsels.) This should interest political buffs in general and African Americans particularly. Recommended.William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport
Booknews
The daughter of the late secretary of commerce, who died in a plane crash over Croatia in 1996, shares a touching account of the person and the politician, focusing on the many firsts he accomplished as a minority achiever in a predominantly white world. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
Heart-warming rather than hard-hitting, this loving biography is by a self-proclaimed "daddy's girl." Writing in the first person, the author refers to the late secretary of commerce as "Dad" throughout, and the volume is more family history than chronicle of a public servant's career. Ron's shared experience with his son Michael on the scene as the Berlin Wall came down, for example, is briefly mentioned to introduce the truly significant event of the trip to Germany: visiting the house where Michael's parents lived when he was born. The close-knit life of the Brown family comes across as nothing short of idyllic, and there is no doubt that Tracey utterly adored her father. Even when faults are recognized—Ron's tendency to fall asleep at odd moments or his ineptitude as a driver—they are portrayed as endearing traits; the allegations of corruption that plagued his years in the Clinton administration are dismissed as groundless and politically motivated (the president, by the way, contributes an introduction to the book). Bracketed by accounts of the terrible day a plane crash took Ron's life and the grieving that followed is a survey of major life events: family background, school days, early career in the army, the Urban League, rainmaker at a Washington legal/lobbying firm, and political activities leading to the chairmanship of the Democratic Party and appointment as secretary of commerce. In perhaps the most objective passage of the book, the author recognizes the source of her father's success: "Dad's ability to schmooze was unequalled." There is no pretense that the agenda here is anything other than paying tribute, and given this candor, the book has aninnocent quality that is charmingly sweet as well as irritatingly naive. (b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780688153205
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/01/1998
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.18(d)

Read an Excerpt

I laugh every time I remember my twenty-seventh birthday. It was November 8, 1994, and I was in a courtroom, about to make my opening statement as prosecutor on an assault and battery case. The presiding judge had just ordered the jury to be seated when the bailiff whispered to me that I had a telephone call. Hoping the call was not a cancellation by an important witness, I walked over and picked up the phone on the bailiffs desk. In my most professional voice, I said, "This is Tracey Brown." Then I heard Dad, in that baby-talk voice he sometimes used with me: "Twenty-six years ago today, I was in the waiting room at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, when Dr. Josephine En-glish comes in grinning from ear to ear. Of course, we had a female obstetrician, since Mom and I have always been feminists."

I interrupted. "Hurry up, Daddy, the jury is in the box."

But he continued at his normal pace, retelling the story of my birth as he did on my birthday every year: "Dr. English says, 'It's a girl!' and I say, 'It's a girl!' I'm so happy and I run in to see you. Wrapped in a tiny blanket in Mom's arms is this pale baby. You were so white that you were translucent, so I say to Mom, 'That's not my baby. She's too white."

The judge was staring at me. "Miss Brown?" he queried, reminding me that the court was waiting.

"If I can have a moment, Your Honor," I responded. Then into the receiver, I whispered, "Daddy, the judge is getting mad."

But Dad was in the midst of our annual birthday ritual and refused to be hurried: "Then I picked you up and looked at your beautiful face and your little mouth and your almond eyes and I knew you were my baby girl. Happy birthday,baby. I love you so much."

"I love you too, Daddy," I whispered, "but I have to go."

"Are you gonna kick some booty in court?"

"Yes, Daddy, but I really have to go."

"Say, 'I'm gonna kick butt."

"No, Dad. Have a great day. Gotta go."

"Say it," he teased.

"I'm gonna kick butt," I whispered, trying not to laugh.

"Say it louder."

"Dad, I don't want you to have to fly out here and bail my butt out of jail for being held in contempt of court."

"Okay, okay. Good luck with your trial. Happy birthday, Boli." Boli, short for Tracinda Bolinda, his nickname for me.

"Bye, Daddy. I'll call you all tonight. I love you.

"I love you more." We hung up. Then, warmed by his love, with a smile on my face, I turned to the jury. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Tracey Brown and I represent the people of the state of California."

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