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Finding Aid to the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Papers, 1960s-2003, Bulk 1996-2003, SFH 69
SFH 69  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Publication Rights
  • Processing Information
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Related Materials
  • Materials Removed
  • Materials Transferred
  • Conservation Note
  • Redacted Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Willie L. Brown, Jr. Papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: SFH 69
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    Physical Description: 28.25 cubic feet (34 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1960s-2003
    Date (bulk): Bulk 1996-2003
    Abstract: This collection documents the mayoral career of Willie L. Brown, Jr., who was mayor of San Francisco from 1996 to 2004. Included are bill files, subject files, correspondence, press releases, newspaper clippings, and photographs.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: The collection is in English.
    Creator: Brown, Willie L., (Willie Lewis Brown), 1934-


    The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Collections that are stored offsite should be requested 48 hours in advance. Confidential information was redacted in the Open Door Day Notebooks.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Willie L. Brown, Jr. Papers (SFH 69), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


    Transferred from City Hall in January 2004. Press conference videos were transferred from San Francisco Government TV.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Tami J. Suzuki with photograph processing by Lisa Weddle.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    VHS videocassettes and DVDs are included in the collection.

    Related Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also the San Francisco History Center's subject and biographical files, Mayoral Papers, Mayoral Gifts, and the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection; and to check the library catalog for related materials. See also the Willie L. Brown Jr. Collection, San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, San Francisco State University: archival film and video related to Brown's political career, from 1972 to 2004. See also Mayoral Campaign Clippings, 1995 and 1999, at University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Governmental Studies. See Also the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service for a collection of artifacts, videotapes and legislative papers from his 40 years in public office.

    Materials Removed

    Daily press clippings have been removed. Some confidential documents have been removed.

    Materials Transferred

    Photographs have been transferred to the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Gifts bestowed to the mayor have been transferred to the Mayoral Gifts Collection.

    Conservation Note

    Some videotapes were transferred from broadcast format to DVD.

    Redacted Information

    Some names were redacted to protect confidentiality of minors.


    Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. was born March 20, 1934 in Minneola, Texas and became one of California’s most influential politicians. He graduated from San Francisco State College in 1955 and received a Juris Doctor degree from Hastings College of the Law in 1958. Brown was in private practice when he was elected to represent the 18th Assembly District (Democrat, San Francisco; later represented the 17th and 13th ADs) in the California Assembly in 1965. He served as Speaker from 1980 to 1995, a record term and the first African American in that role. He enjoyed a powerful long tenure, raising significant money for his fellow Democrats. Brown is married to the former Blanche Vitero. He has four children.
    Brown was elected San Francisco’s 41st mayor on December 12, 1995, in a runoff with the incumbent, Frank Jordan. Brown was the city’s first African American mayor. He served two terms, from Jan. 8, 1996 to Jan. 8, 2004, and he oversaw San Francisco’s most diverse administration, including the first Asian American police chief, and first African American fire and police chiefs. In 1996 he signed the Equal Benefits Ordinance requiring city contractors to provide domestic partner benefits to their employees, the first such law in the country.
    In his first days in office, he abolished Jordan’s Matrix program which cracked down on street crimes such as public sleeping, camping, and drinking. His homeless policy included new shelters, supportive housing, job training, and drug treatment centers. However, quality of life issues and widespread homelessness persisted.
    Long associated with developers as an assemblyman, Mayor Brown moved large-scale development projects forward including condominium buildings, the airport’s new International Terminal, the Port, and the City’s newest neighborhood, Mission Bay, which became home to the University of California, San Francisco’s biotechnology campus. A privately-financed downtown baseball stadium measure was approved by voters in 1996; the San Francisco Giants played their first game there in April of 2000. In 1995 City Hall underwent a 4-year, $300 million seismic retrofit and restoration. The mayor also signed an agreement with the U.S. Navy to clean up and transfer the formal Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.
    San Francisco’s economy was marked by the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, marked by gentrification and soaring housing prices; followed by the crash of 2001. Tourism and the growth of Internet technology, called Web 2.0, brought economic recovery by 2003. Brown increased the city budget to $5.2 billion, adding 4000 employees. Notably, on Jan. 1, 2001, San Francisco became the second California county to offer nearly universal health coverage for children.
    Brown was easily re-elected in the December 1999 runoff over write-in candidate, Supervisor Tom Ammiano. He had made numerous appointments to the Board of Supervisors. However, a number of his allies on the board were defeated in the reinstated district elections held in the fall of 2000. The mayor had an acrimonious time with the new board; he did not attend their meetings.
    Upon leaving office, he said, "There's nothing that compares to my eight years as mayor of San Francisco. It's been an incredible ride." He continues to be at the center of California politics and government as a political adviser. He created and heads the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service. Brown released an autobiography, Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times, and is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a political commentator. In 2013, the western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was renamed in his honor.

    Scope and Contents

    This collection documents the mayoral career of Willie L. Brown, Jr., who served as Mayor of San Francisco from 1996 to 2004. Materials include departmental, commission, and task force reports and correspondence, budget summaries, notes, constituent correspondence, speaking notes, press conferences, press releases, newspaper clippings, and photographs. Speech text is not included as the mayor was known to speak without written scripts. Little of his mayoral campaigns is included. Subjects include Hunters Point Shipyard, Live/Work Units, Tenancies-in-Common, Mission Bay, Open Door Days, District Elections, JCDeceaux Toilets, Golden Gate Park Garage, and War Protest.


    Organized into six series by office: Series 1. Chief of Staff; Series 2. Confidential Secretary; Series 3. Federal Legislative Affairs; Series 4. Mayors Office of Neighborhood Services; Series 5. Press Office; and Series 6. Office of Protocol. Within series, arrangement is alphabetical, by subject.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Brown, Willie L., (Willie Lewis Brown), 1934- --Archives.
    City planning--California--San Francisco.
    Mayors -- California--San Francisco.
    San Francisco (Calif.) --Politics and government -- 20th century.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Politics and government -- 21st century.
    Urban policy--California--San Francisco.