Twenty-five students, faculty and community members gathered at the UC Irvine Bookstore to celebrate former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s book signing of “Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times,” on Monday, April 21.
The Author Series, a program at the bookstore that invites newly published authors to autograph copies of their books, hosted the event. Brown’s book, an autobiography of his life, gives an account of his experience with segregation in Texas and his journey to becoming a powerful legislator in American politics.
The well-dressed 74-year-old politician served over 30 years in the California State Assembly and after 15 years as its speaker, Brown was elected as the first African-American mayor of San Francisco.
The event consisted of a book signing, a brief speech by Brown and a short question-and-answer session.
Although the majority of the crowd was composed of an older audience, there were a few students who held a keen interest in American politics or a curiosity of Brown’s life.
Second-year nursing science major Johnrey Hassan, who lived in San Francisco for 18 years, said he vividly remembered seeing Brown on the news and being impressed by his policies.
“I recognized [Brown’s] face on the flier and came here to get a copy of his book signed,” Hassan said.
James Ang, a fourth-year political science and history double-major, also grew up in San Francisco. “Brown was one of the most respectable figures in the city when I was growing up,” Ang said. “I remember meeting him once when I was in middle school. He had given a great speech that had inspired me to work hard in school.”
Brown, who was quite conversational during the book signing, noted how pleased he was to be in Irvine. “It feels like home. I have been to Irvine many times before—it’s a great place.”
“Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times,” is a widely appreciated memoir that The New York Times called “a seminar for young politicians by a master of the craft.” Copies are currently being printed for the third time, and the book is being sold at bookstores all over the country.
According to Brown, the book holds a vital lesson for young college students. “The book talks about essential components of Californian history. It is important for students to learn and understand the history of their state. Like I always say, ‘Knowledge is king.'”
After Brown finished signing his last book, he began a short speech about his childhood and his life in Texas, his move to California, his political career and finally, his experience as an author.
Brown was born and raised in Mineola, Texas, a small segregated town. He came to California to go to college, an opportunity that was out of reach for him in Texas at the time.
“I wanted to go to Stanford,” Brown shared. However, due to the high fees at Stanford, as well as the limited academic exposure he had in Texas, Brown was not able to attend the school. Instead, Brown went to San Francisco State and earned his degree in political science. Brown later attended Hastings College of Law and earned his Juris Doctor in 1958.
After an illustrious career as a renowned politician, Brown retired from politics in 2004, and spent the past three to four years working on his book. Brown came to UCI at the request of Joe White, his colleague and friend of 57 years, who is also a distinguished social sciences professor from San Francisco State University and the recipient of the UCI Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Lauds & Laurels Extraordinarius Award.
Brown said he was very satisfied with people’s response to his book. “It has made me more money than I ever expected,” Brown said. “I haven’t been sued for anything yet. But I’m looking forward. These days, getting sued increases the sales of your book!”