Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown, Jr. was born 7 April 1938 in San Francisco, California. Brown’s father, “Pat” Brown would eventually serve as California Attorney General (1951-1959) and Governor (1959-1967). Jerry Brown was educated in Catholic schools and attended Santa Clara College before leaving to join Sacred Heart Novitiate as a seminarian, which he left after three years. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1961 and then went on to graduate from Yale School of Law in 1964. Brown’s career as an elected official began in southern California in 1969 when he was elected to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees and then continued for nearly the next fifty years through a succession of high offices. He was elected: in 1970 to serve as California Secretary of State; in 1974 and again in 1978 as California Governor; in 1998 and 2002 as Mayor of Oakland; in 2006 as California Attorney General; and, finally, in 2010 and 2014 as Governor of California, for a third and record fourth term. In the midst of, and in between these offices, he ran three times for President of the United States (1976, 1980, and 1992), he once was the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate in California (1982), was elected chair of the California Democratic Party (1988), and ran his own non-profit, populist, quasi-political organization We the People out of his communal living space in Oakland, California in the 1990s. In this oral history, the following topics are discussed at length: family background and upbringing; education, religion, and friendships; the political career of Pat Brown; college, seminary, and law school; California statewide elected offices, including Governor of California; campaigns for elected office, including for US President; election reform; taxation, budgets, and deficits; law, the courts, and criminal justice reform; immigration; the environment and climate change; education reform, charter schools, and higher education; Oakland, CA; popular culture, journalism, and political campaigns; political philosophy, theories of governance, and applied politics.
Edmund Gerald Brown, Jr., “Jerry Brown: A Life in California Politics” conducted by Scott Shafer, Martin Meeker, and Todd Holmes in 2019, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2020.