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George Brown Jr.
Chairman of the House Science Committee

In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 1995
Speaker Tom Foley
Preceded by Robert A. Roe
Succeeded by Robert S. Walker
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1993 – July 15, 1999
Preceded by Dana Rohrabacher
Succeeded by Joe Baca
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by William M. Ketchum
Succeeded by Jane Harman
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1975
Preceded by Victor V. Veysey
Succeeded by Jerry M. Patterson
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1963 – January 3, 1971
Preceded by Dalip Singh Saund
Succeeded by George E. Danielson
Member of the California State Assembly

In office
Personal details
Born George Edward Brown Jr.
(1920-03-06)March 6, 1920
Holtville, California, U.S.
Died July 15, 1999(1999-07-15) (aged 79)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles

George Edward Brown Jr. (March 6, 1920 – July 15, 1999) was an American politician. He was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from 1963 to 1971 and from 1973 until his death in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1999, representing Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties in California.

Early life, education, early career

Brown was born in Holtville, California, one of four children of George Edward Brown Sr. and Bird Alma Kilgore. Brown graduated from Holtville Union High School in 1935 and attended Central Junior College (now Imperial Valley College) in 1938. He then entered the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he became head of the UCLA Student Housing Association and helped found the University Housing Cooperative Association (UHCA), a student housing cooperative, in 1938. The UHCA was formed in part to allow African American students to live off campus in the Westwood section of Los Angeles which at that time did not allow African Americans in the neighborhood. To emphasize the point, Brown took an African American roommate in the first inter-racial housing arrangement at UCLA. The UCHA experience was also the first example of Brown's lifelong association with cooperatives.

Shortly after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps, an action that offended Brown so much that he helped organize protests in Los Angeles in 1942. At this point, Brown's college education was interrupted by the draft, although as a Quaker, he had registered as a conscientious objector and in 1942, he entered the Civilian Public Service at Camp 21 in Wyeth, Oregon. During his service at Camp 21 Brown realized that he could not change the broader society while isolated in Civilian Public Service and he rescinded his conscientious objector status in 1944, entering the United States Army, serving in World War II as an instructor and rising to the rank of lieutenant by the time of his discharge in 1946.

Once the war ended, he returned to college, finishing his education at UCLA, where he graduated with a BS degree in Industrial Physics in 1946. For twelve years he was employed by the city of Los Angeles, CA Department of Water and Power in engineering and personnel. In 1958, he became a management consultant.

Political career

Brown continued his political activism by invigorating the Monterey Park Democratic Club and being elected to the Monterey Park City Council in 1954, serving on Council until 1958. The last three years on City Council, Brown served as Mayor of Monterey Park. His activism on behalf of civil rights continued during his term as Mayor, evidenced by a report that when the first African American family moved to Monterey Park and met with racist protests, Brown drove to the family's home where he spent the night to protect them.[1]

He was a member of the California State Assembly from 1959 to 1962. His service in the state legislature was marked by a number of innovative legislative proposals. The George Brown Act of 1961 was one of the first comprehensive public employee labor relations laws in the nation.[2] Other legislative proposals included one of the first bills to ban lead in gasoline, ban the use of the pesticide DDT, and even a whimsical proposal to ban the internal combustion engine.

With the 1960 reapportionment, California picked up eight new Congressional seats and Brown ran for one of the open seats in 1962, winning election to the US House of Representatives. He served in Congress until 1971, giving up the seat to run for the U.S. Senate.

Early Congressional service

Brown's Congressional service coincided with the early phases of the Vietnam War. Brown was a strong opponent of the expansion of the conflict and joined a Quaker protest on the steps of the Capitol in 1965, daring police to arrest him with the other anti-war protestors. He was a lone and steady voice and vote against the war. The Fiscal Year (FY) 1966 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill passed the House of Representatives 392–1, with Brown the sole dissenting vote. On February 26, 1966, the Foreign Aid bill with provisions of support for the Vietnamese Government passed the House 350–27, with Brown the only liberal voting "No" (the other 26 votes were conservatives opposed to foreign aid). In March 1966, the FY'66 Supplemental Appropriations Bill with funding for Vietnam passed the House 393–4, with Brown joined by Reps. Burton, Conyers, and Ryan. In August 1967, Brown was once again the sole dissenting voice against the FY '68 Defense Appropriations bill, which passed the House 407–1.[3]

Brown was involved in other major national policy changes were made during this period, notably the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Brown was a strong and early advocate of this legislation and was present at the signing of the bill (second row, far left in photo).[4] Brown also actively supported the farmworker organizing of Cesar Chavez and the mid-1960s grape boycott.

1970 California Senate Democratic Primary

In 1970, Republican Senator George Murphy was considered vulnerable and was a top target of the Democratic party. Congressman John V. Tunney entered the race early and painted himself as a young, charismatic and energetic "Kennedy-esque" candidate as opposed to the older established Murphy. But Brown also entered the race in 1969. though with little money, organization, or most felt, chance to win. What ensued was one of the most bitter primary elections in California history. Brown touted his long standing opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and while Tunney also stated he opposed the war, he favored keeping the draft while Brown opposed it. Brown's mentor was Eugene McCarthy and like McCarthy in 1968, he ran a grass roots campaign. While Tunney stayed in the center-right of the political spectrum, Brown ran unabashedly to the left. Suddenly young voters flocked to the older Brown, and what seemed like an easy nomination for Tunney turned into a dogfight. The invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State killings also helped Brown. Brown made Vietnam and Richard Nixon the focus of his campaign while Tunney towed a middle ground. As Brown edged ahead in the polls, the campaign turned nasty. Tunney falsely claimed Brown advocated campus violence and was a liberal rogue who could not be trusted in the Senate. The normally laid back Brown then lashed out at Tunney, calling him a spoiled little rich kid. Tunney then touted his anti-war record, which Brown said was merely political grandstanding. Tunney used a late spending spree on TV ads and after a hard fought nasty campaign, Brown narrowly lost the primary. After the bitter primary, Tunney trailed Murphy in the polls by double digits but quickly made up ground and defeated Murphy handily in the general election.

Post-defeat and return to Congress

Following his defeat by John Tunney in the California Senate Race, Brown was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship and studied for a time with Ivan Illich at his Intercultural Documentation Center at Cuernavaca in Mexico.

The 1970 reapportionment added five new districts to California and in 1972, Brown sought election to the redistricted 38th Congressional District and won. He was elected to the Ninety-third and to the thirteen succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1973 – July 15, 1999).

Being a progressive Democrat from a largely Republican area, Brown was famous for running in more close elections than any other congressman in the 20th century without being defeated. A close election is considered by most pundits to be 55% of the vote or less, as most incumbent members of congress easily top 60% in their races. Brown topped the 55% mark only eight times in his 18 congressional elections and was only over 60% three times. He was nearly defeated in numerous elections starting with his first in 1962 for congressional district 29 with 55.7% of the vote. He would then earn 58.6%, 51.1%, and 52.3% in '64, '66, and '68 respectively before running for the US Senate. In 1972 he returned to congress by winning 56% of the vote in district 38. He would then have his three easiest campaigns by winning 62.6% in 1974, 61.6% in 1976, and 62.9% in 1978. In 1980 the Ronald Reagan landslide almost forced him from office and he struggled to hold on with 52.5% against Republican John Paul Stark. It was the first of four consecutive elections against Stark, another modern era record. Brown would triumph with 54% in 1982 and would garner 56.6% in 1984, 57% in '86, and 54% in '88. In 1990 he slipped to a meager 52.7% against San Bernardino County Supervisor Rob Hammock, a sign of tough elections to come. In 1992 famed pilot Dick Rutan held him to 50.7%. The 1996 race was even closer as he barely defeated San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Linda Wilde with 50.5%, winning by a plurality of only 996 votes. In his final reelection campaign in 1998 he came up with 55% of the vote.

In 102nd and 103rd Congresses, he served as chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which is now the House Committee on Science.

Brown died on July 15, 1999, at the age of 79 in Bethesda, Maryland, from an infection developed following heart valve replacement surgery in May of that year while serving his 18th term in the House. At the time of his death, Brown was the Ranking Democratic Member on the House Science Committee and a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee. He was the oldest serving House member and the longest-serving member of the House or Senate in the history of his home state of California. Democrat Joe Baca was elected to his seat in a special election.

Legislative record

A portrait of George Brown Jr. standing on the surface of the Moon.

"I was interested in science before I even knew what science was."

–George E. Brown Jr.

Brown was known as a champion for science. He left behind a deep and expansive legacy that has shaped science and science policy in America. Among some of his many accomplishments during his service on the House Science Committee:

  • Established the first federal climate change research program in the Federal Climate Program Act of 1978
  • Established the Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Established the Environmental Protection Agency[5]
  • Established the (now defunct) Office of Technology Assessment

Consistent with his long-held conviction that the nation needed a coherent technology policy, Brown developed an extensive technology initiative during his term as Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee (2002–2004). This work articulated his concept of a partnership between the public and private sectors to improve the nation's competitiveness. Such successes and his continuing concern to demonstrate the practical application of advances in science and technology, he instituted the first video conferences in the U.S. Congress between the US and the Soviet Union/Russia, between 1987 and 1990. During these live teleconferences, Members of the House Science and Technology Committee exchanged ideas on science and technology via satellite with counterparts from the Commonwealth of Independent States. This series of broadcasts, hosted by Peter Jennings,[6] won an Emmy for technical achievement.[7]

Brown was critical of government secrecy over-reach and sought and gained a seat on the House Intelligence Committee. He pressed for a relaxation of secrecy restrictions on remote sensing satellites, seeing a great potential commercial market in remote sensing. His work eventually brought him into conflict with the intelligence community and he eventually resigned from the committee in protest.[8]

He also was a staunch defender of civil liberties and human rights. In 1992, for example, he led a 60 Minutes investigative team to Central America to expose the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars for the construction of export processing zones in which workers were being grossly mistreated and denied their fundamental human rights as they made apparel and other consumer products exported back to the U.S. His investigation and expose surfaced in the 1992 presidential election campaign and also resulted in the Congress immediately cutting off the use of any taxpayer funds for the development of such export zones (EPZs) anywhere outside of the U.S.


Because of his strong commitment to science, Congressman Brown has been honored by several science and policy related organizations and had laboratories, awards, libraries and bills named in his honor, including:

Brown's archive of papers have been donated to University of California, Riverside[citation needed].


External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Dalip Singh Saund
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 29th congressional district

January 3, 1963 – January 3, 1971
Succeeded by
George E. Danielson
Preceded by
Victor V. Veysey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 38th congressional district

January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1975
Succeeded by
Jerry M. Patterson
Preceded by
William M. Ketchum
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 36th congressional district

January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1993
Succeeded by
Jane Harman
Preceded by
Dana Rohrabacher
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 42nd congressional district

January 3, 1993 – July 15, 1999
Succeeded by
Joe Baca
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert A. Roe
New Jersey
Chairman of House Science Committee
Succeeded by
Robert S. Walker

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