Jerry Brown: A Life in California Politics

There are very few individuals who are what might be called “political royalty” in California. Governor Jerry Brown is one of those individuals. The son of former California governor, Edmund “Pat” Brown, Jerry’s political career began on the heels of his father’s. In 1969, he was elected to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. And for nearly the next fifty years, he became a mainstay in California politics as he continued to hold and/or run for elected office. 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 (1989), and ran his own nonprofit, populist, quasi-political organization We the People out of a communal living space he custom-built in Oakland, California in the 1990s. For a historian of California politics, the question was not, “Should Jerry be interviewed?” but rather, “Where does one start?”

The oral history of Governor Jerry Brown was a collaborative venture between Todd Holmes and Martin Meeker of UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center, and KQED San Francisco political editor Scott Shafer. Together, the team conducted over 40 hours of recorded interviews with Governor Brown, covering–in unprecedented depth–every turn of his 50-year-career in California politics. Click here for the transcript, Jerry Brown: A Life In California Politics. You can also access the full audio of the interviews on the Oral History Center’s site.

Todd Holmes and Martin Meeker with Gov. Jerry Brown

Todd Holmes, Martin Meeker and Scott Schafer interviewing Gov. Jerry Brown

The oral history interview also served as the basis for the KQED podcast series The Political Mind of Jerry Brown, which was narrated and co-produced by Scott Shafer.