Preferred Citation: Richardson, James. Willie Brown: A Biography. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1996 1996.

Chapter Nine— The Gaffney Triangle

Chapter Nine—
The Gaffney Triangle

We can't lose. It's impossible.
Willie Brown
Primary election day, June 1964

Despite his earlier promises to Democratic legislative leaders that 1962 would be his last race, San Francisco Assemblyman Ed Gaffney ran again, promising that 1964 would be his last race.[1] But this time, the Burton organization threw everything at Gaffney. It did not matter who Gaffney was or how he voted or what promises he made. They were going to take him down, and Willie Brown was going to have his seat.

After winning his congressional seat in a special election in February 1964, Phillip Burton immediately launched into helping his younger brother, John, replace him in the Assembly and helping Willie Brown win the Assembly seat he should have won two years earlier.[2] Looking back, John Burton reflected that Willie Brown "got almost everything" from his brother that year.[3] The money and volunteers Brown lacked in 1962 were in plentiful supply for the 1964 race. Phillip Burton lent him his personal campaign manager, Rudy Nothenberg. Brown was even given a professional pollster, Hal Dunleavy. It was almost as if Phillip Burton believed he owed Willie Brown for his narrow loss two years earlier.

From the start of the 1964 campaign, Brown was tagged "Willie Brown, Negro attorney" in the newspapers. But he did not run as a Negro candidate. He labeled himself "a responsible liberal."[4] The antisegregation platform of two years earlier went on the back burner. There was no talk from the


candidate about the Sheraton-Palace and Auto Row demonstrations unless he could not avoid it. Willie Brown would do whatever he had to do to win in 1964. The black churches, the core of his campaign two years earlier, took a back seat. The Reverend Boswell was still the campaign chairman, but this time he was just a name on the letterhead, and, sensing victory, he gladly did not complain. This campaign was run by a new breed of professionals, and they would leave nothing to chance.

Brown looked for expedient means to beat Gaffney, and he soon found them. He grabbed onto an emotional issue—a state Division of Highways proposal to build a freeway through Golden Gate Park's Panhandle[5] —and Brown wrapped it around Gaffney's neck. Brown, who later became identified with downtown developers, ironically rode into office as an antidevelopment crusader.

Brown found the perfect issue. Golden Gate Park was sacred ground for San Franciscans. Built on sand dunes, the rectangular park had become heavily wooded, a forest in the urban environment. Contained within the park were botanical gardens, a zoo, an aquarium, a planetarium, and a world-class art museum. Cutting a freeway through it was unthinkable except to highway engineers looking for an efficient route to link the Golden Gate Bridge with the suburbs on the Peninsula. The engineers were logical: the straightest path was through, or under, the park. But their proposal became a symbol of urban development gone amok.

Willie Brown suddenly seized upon an issue about which he had shown no previous interest. He and George Moscone began showing up at Highway Commission meetings and Board of Supervisors meetings, and they soon brought neighborhood residents with them to jam the audience. They tormented the state highway engineers until, long after the election, they dropped the project.

Brown began using the issue in mass mailings to San Francisco voters. "Whether you like it or not, the State is pushing an ugly, sprawling freeway through your neighborhood," Brown declared in a letter mailed by the thousands to voters:

Your "representative" is silent on this issue. In fact, he is never heard speaking in your interest. Our district has no political leadership, no fighting political voice. I would like to be that voice. . . . I ask for your vote, so that I can fight for you—against the freeway fanatics, and against anyone who threatens our district. You're entitled to be represented, not misled.[6]

It did not matter that Gaffney also opposed the freeway. But Gaffney did not understand the potency of the issue. Goaded by Brown's broadsides, Gaffney officiously explained (accurately) that Assembly members did not vote on highway projects. In a form letter to voters, Gaffney said that he was "greatly concerned" about the freeway proposal but he noted (accurately) that the state constitution gave authority to the state Highway Commission


for the routing of freeways. He urged voters to write members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who had real power on the issue.[7] Without realizing it, Gaffney was admitting he was an ineffective legislator. He was exactly where Brown wanted him.

Willie Brown papered the district with his freeway issue missives. An official-looking broadsheet entitled "The Haight-Ashbury Democratic Reporter"—put together by his friends from law school—pictured a sharply dressed Brown standing in Golden Gate Park. "Brown points out path of freeway which threatens to destroy Panhandle," the caption said.[8]

Gaffney replied with his own broadsheet entitled "Haight-Ashbury Backs Gaffney." The text said, "Gaffney spoke out in the legislature when the state attempted to blackmail San Francisco into accepting the Panhandle Freeway. . . . The facts, not fiction, speak plain enough. Gaffney's career is a record of achievement."[9] But Gaffney was now playing Willie Brown's game. It was Brown's issue, and Gaffney could not win by explaining how the highway commission works. The one issue that might have put Brown on the defensive—his close involvement in the civil rights demonstrations—Gaffney did not try, probably out of fear that it would have backfired in the heavily black Western Addition.

Brown's campaign stirred interest any way it could dream up. A mimeographed leaflet handed out on street corners invited all comers to the opening of his campaign office at 1405 Divisadero Street: "Meet your old friends—drink the beer—meet Willie Brown."[10] The new headquarters was closer to Geary Street, the main east-west artery through the district, than his old headquarters. A campaign poet laureate whose name is lost to time scripted this tortured verse for a flier recruiting campaign volunteers: "Workers—if we don't haff any, we'll be stuck with Eddie Gaff Any."[11] Postcards were mailed with return postage and a box that could be checked: "We join Willie Brown in opposing the unwanted Panhandle Freeway!"[12]

Working in the background, pollster Hal Dunleavy identified, block by block, Gaffney's stronghold in the Irish neighborhoods of the Castro District. The campaign nicknamed it the "Gaffney Triangle" and worked at weakening Gaffney in his home turf.[13] It was the same tactic that Phillip Burton had used. The center of the Gaffney Triangle was Monahan's, a bar owned by John Monahan that was a center of Irish-American politics. "We really got in the face of the Gaffney people," Brown gleefully remembered thirty years later.[14]

The key to weakening Gaffney in the Gaffney Triangle was to neutralize his support from labor unions.[15] Brown sent an "Open Letter to Labor" claiming that Gaffney was last among San Francisco Democrats on labor votes in the Legislature and that he ranked twenty-sixth out of the fifty-two Assembly Democrats overall.[16] Brown again won an endorsement from the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU), surprising no one since the organization was closely aligned with Phillip


Burton. The union was already heavily integrated, and by some estimates it was one-third black. The ILWU supported advancement for blacks at a time when larger unions, including the American Federation of Labor, were highly resistant to giving blacks jobs. The ILWU lent volunteers and professional organizers to help in the campaign. There were also setbacks in Brown's labor strategy. Gaffney won the endorsement of the San Francisco Committee on Political Education (COPE), an arm of the AFL-CIO. Brown won only 53 votes to 139 for Gaffney at the April 2 COPE convention.[17]

Brown also sought mainstream support from the city's newspapers, and he picked up a major endorsement: the San Francisco Chronicle . The newspaper argued that Gaffney's time had come and gone. "Gaffney has served since 1940 in the Assembly with an indifferent record of accomplishment for his district and the city. His seniority in service should pay dividends for San Francisco; unfortunately it does not."[18] The Chronicle noted that Brown was a "leader in the fight" against the Panhandle freeway.

In Brown's view, the key to getting the Chronicle endorsement was Brown's budding friendship with Herb Caen, the newspaper's leading columnist.[19] Caen was more than a chronicler of local affairs. He invented San Francisco's modern sense of itself, and his short-item column was the first thing thousands of readers turned to every morning.

Brown said he was introduced to Caen by a public relations woman who was helping Brown's campaign. She set up a lunch for him with the columnist: "At lunch, we two no-nonsense guys who don't have a whole lot of sensitivity about people's feelings, started off playing, cutting each other. And he just started to laugh, and of course she was a little uptight because she couldn't figure out why I would be so direct, caustic, to Herb Caen. He finally told her we were having a good time and it's okay if you leave. She left. And we sat there and bullshitted the rest of the afternoon and then agreed that we better have lunch at least once or twice a week from that day on—and we did."[20]

Brown and Caen discovered they had much in common, and their friendship became legendary in San Francisco: "He [Caen] started probing me about the town, and he realized that I literally spent my entire life in the streets, that I knew every bartender, every doorman, that I knew the after-hours joints. He was into that setting as well and fascinated with it because he had reached a stage in his life where that kind of activity was not what his companions and his acquaintances and his associates were doing. So he was delighted to come back to the side of life that had really originally been his."[21]

In contrast, the conservative Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner had no use for Willie Brown, the Burtons, or any of their ilk. The newspaper published a red-baiting editorial headlined "Two We Cannot Support" that lambasted Brown and John Burton for "holding hands with the Marxist W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs."[22]


Across town, Brown's friend, John Burton, fighting to succeed his older brother in the Assembly, faced John Delury, who had the endorsements of the two most powerful Democrats in the state, Governor Pat Brown and Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh. Delury was the administrative assistant for state Senator Gene McAteer, who was Phillip Burton's top rival for preeminence in San Francisco Democratic Party politics. Delury's campaign manager was Leo McCarthy, a county supervisor and a former McAteer protégé. The campaign was bitter from the start, and the bad blood deepened when John Burton won the endorsement of the California Democratic Council club in San Francisco. McCarthy accused the Burton brothers of "unfair and unethical tactics" and claimed that they packed the meeting with nonmembers, a tactic not unfamiliar to the Burton organization.[23] McCarthy appealed to the California Democratic Council state board of directors, claiming that he had "uncontroverted proof" that John Burton had padded the membership roles. One of the so-called members had given as an address the Moulin Rouge nightclub.[24] However, the endorsement stood. Leo McCarthy and the Burton camp would fight again another day.

John Burton had one possibly fatal vulnerability, but Delury never used it. In 1962 John Burton, who was a deputy state attorney general at the time, was arrested for bookmaking in a downtown parking lot when he was caught phoning in a bet on a horse named Legal Beagle. Police had the parking lot under surveillance after hearing reports that John Burton frequently used the booth to phone in bets. But Burton was acquitted; his defense attorney was George Moscone.[25]

Willie Brown took no such chances, and he stayed far clear of his gambling uncle. Everything Brown did was intentional, serious, and totally committed to winning. Brown surrounded himself with a hugely talented group of staff and volunteers. Many of them went on to illustrious political careers of their own. The Chinese precincts were assigned to Bill Honig, a gangly young law clerk to a state supreme court justice.[26] Eighteen years later, Honig was elected California superintendent of public instruction and became a key ally of Brown in legislative battles with Republican governors. Another young campaign worker was Bill Lockyer, who thirty years later became the most powerful Democrat in the state Senate. Rudy Nothenberg, in addition to acting as campaign manager, also walked precincts. He later became a Brown legislative aide and then San Francisco's chief administrative officer in City Hall, equivalent to city manager. Susan Bierman, a longtime neighborhood activist and future county supervisor, was in charge of "special projects," and Brown's lawyer friend, John Dearman, a future judge, coordinated the campaign's speakers bureau. Terence Hallinan, another future county supervisor and district attorney, coordinated student volunteers. Two future mayors were frontline soldiers for Willie Brown in 1964: Dianne Feinstein worked in the office and made sandwiches for the precinct walkers, and George Moscone worked in the Italian-American neighborhoods.


George Moscone wrote a letter to Italian households describing Brown as "a Sunday school teacher with strong roots in the community" who would support "more liberal immigration laws" to make it easier for their relatives to come to America.[27] Of course, state Assembly members had nothing to do with passage of federal immigration laws. Similar letters were sent to other ethnic groups signed by prominent members of those communities. However, the letter sent to Latinos left out the line about supporting "liberal" immigration laws.[28] Latinos at the time opposed relaxing immigration laws because they viewed an influx of poor Mexicans as competition in the labor market. Chinese-American voters got a letter written in both English and Chinese.[29] In a letter mailed to teachers, Brown proclaimed schools "the first responsibility of democratic government."[30] If Brown had lacked focus with specific voter groups two years earlier, he more than made up for it in 1964.

However, there was one person who, sadly, was lost in the campaign: Blanche Brown. "Willie was going great guns with his career. I helped him campaign in the beginning, but he wanted to keep his private life in the background," she explained. She hated politics and everything about it. "Nobody really cared about me or what I had to say. I can remember being introduced to the same people every time. Nobody remembered who I was. Eventually, I just stopped going." Like many reluctant political wives, she devoted herself to raising her children, mostly without her husband. Blanche Brown receded into the background of Willie Brown's career. "I guess I never realized I was so far back," she reflected years later.[31]

As the campaign wore on, Ed Gaffney feebly tried to find an issue to get his campaign jump-started. He proposed that Alcatraz Island be turned into a memorial for John F. Kennedy, but his idea went nowhere.[32] Even so, Gaffney still had respectable support. Governor Brown's endorsement letter said, "It is only by electing public officials with Ed Gaffney's abilities that our State and City can continue to move forward."[33] Gaffney reprinted it, but the milquetoast letter was the only help he would get from the governor. Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh wrote a form letter for Gaffney addressed "To Whom It May Concern:"

Assemblyman Edward M. Gaffney, the veteran legislator of San Francisco's 18th Assembly District, commands the respect and admiration of his colleagues in the Legislature as well as high ranking officials in the Administration. . . . I am proud to endorse Assemblyman Gaffney for re-election. The State of California, the Legislature, and the people of the 18th District will profit from the continued service of this seasoned, highly qualified legislator.[34]

Endorsement aside, Unruh did as little as he could get away with for Gaffney. Perhaps Unruh was put off by Gaffney's broken promise not to run, or more likely, Unruh did not want to pick new fights with Phillip Burton. Unruh declined to attend a 1963 San Francisco dinner for Gaffney to help him raise funds for his rematch with Brown. Unruh instead sent a


telegram to be read at the dinner: "I regret I am unable to be present in person to tell his supporters in detail all of the many reasons Eddie has so clearly earned another term in the State Assembly."[35] Willie Brown claimed years later that Unruh's absence from the dinner was not accidental. Burton, who was not yet in Congress, told Unruh that his reelection as Speaker could be in jeopardy if he continued to help Gaffney. "Phil Burton kept [Unruh] from going. Burton said he wouldn't vote for him for reelection to Speaker, and Burton controlled twelve to fourteen people."[36]

Gaffney was the butt of jokes in the Assembly. It was said that he only delivered one speech a year and that was for Mother's Day. When his colleagues once hid his speech, Gaffney frantically searched his desk until Unruh intervened.

A few months before the campaign got underway, Unruh got a sardonic memo from one of his lieutenants, Assemblyman Tom Bane, noting that Gaffney needed "particular tender loving care."[37] At Bane's suggestion, Unruh gave Gaffney a prominent seat in the second row of the Assembly for the 1963–64 session, right behind Unruh for the session's class photo. It made Gaffney look important. Unruh also surrounded Gaffney with two of his smarter cronies on the floor, Assemblymen Robert Crown of Alameda and Charles "Gus" Garrigus from Fresno County, to keep Gaffney from saying or voting for anything dumb.

Unruh tried to help Gaffney indirectly. He bypassed Gaffney's district during a preelection voter registration drive targeted at Negroes everywhere but in San Francisco. Unruh kept his fingerprints off his play by directing the drive through allies in the Democratic State Central Committee. For good measure, Unruh also ordered that no registration drive take place "where Mexican registration is very heavy but where there are Anglo incumbents whose position in a primary would be worsened by a heavy registration drive among Mexican-Americans."[38]

For all of Unruh's stratagems, however, he might as well not have bothered. Brown was smart enough to pick up on Unruh's intrigues even if Gaffney was not. The key to Brown's 1964 campaign was voter registration in the black neighborhoods, and he did a far better job than Unruh could have done. Brown's registration drive in the Eighteenth Assembly District netted 5,577 new Democratic voters in three months, a staggering number for the era.[39] Many of the frontline troops registering voters had been among those arrested in the civil rights demonstrations. Terence Hallinan organized his radical friends from the W.E.B. Du Bois Club into the "Youth Committee for Assemblyman Brown," which worked primarily on voter registration. Hallinan kept the youth committee active for two years, helping Brown to permanently harden his base of support in his district.[40] In later years, registration drives underpinned Brown's campaigns for favored Assembly candidates when he became Speaker. His first effort in the science was impressive.


During the 1964 primary campaign Brown worked by day in his law office defending prostitutes, drug dealers, and civil rights protesters. By night he rang doorbells. He never stopped working. "With all the talk about being raped and strangled, you'd think it would be difficult to get anyone to open the door for you," he told a reporter from the San Francisco Examiner who followed him around for an exhausting day. "But it isn't. I've punched practically every doorbell in Haight-Ashbury and I've held at least 700 conversations with registered voters, white and black."[41]

He had a tough sell with Chinese-American audiences, tending to put his foot in his mouth. Typical was a luncheon at Kuo Wah's restaurant on April 4, where Brown said, "To prevent lawlessness, we have to respect social relationships. The corner store that renders a service to a community usually would not be robbed. A Negro merchant would not be robbed because he would be considered part of them. A Chinese merchant has to achieve a similar relationship." His comments were duly noted, and his speech was given prominent play in the Chinese World newspaper.[42] Fortunately for Brown, his words were not noticed in the mainstream press.

On June 2, 1964, primary election day—the day that launched him into political orbit—Brown awoke at 7 A.M.[43] He had a breakfast of bacon and eggs with Blanche and their three small children at a small Formica kitchen table. The telephone soon began ringing, and Brown took calls from Gina Moscone, the wife of his friend George, and Carlton Goodlett, the newspaper publisher and political patron. Brown dressed, putting on a sharply creased dark suit, a black knit tie, and a button-down gray-striped Oxford shirt. He made himself look every inch a powerful politician, and then he headed out the door.

Brown did not rest that day. All his nervous energy was in full play, and he left no detail to chance. By 8:30 A.M. he was at his campaign headquarters on Divisadero Street. He showed a young woman how to operate a sound truck so that she could cruise the district for the rest of the day urging people to vote. Brown took more telephone calls, greeted visitors, and talked with Nothenberg and Francois. He could not sit still. He went to polling places and counted, line by line, how many people had voted up to that moment. He dropped off a bag of laundry. He wolfed down a ham sandwich and then drove around the district shouting out the window, "Have you voted? Be sure to vote!" Outside a housing project in the Fillmore district, Brown stopped and signed autographs. One of his campaign workers ribbed, "Hey, you kids, that ain't Willie Mays—it's only Willie Brown!"

As the polls closed at 8 P.M., Brown was back at his Divisadero Street headquarters. An anxious campaign worker, tears welling in her eyes, asked, "Oh, Willie, what if we lose?" Brown put his arm around her shoulders, grinned, and said, "We can't lose. It's impossible." He grabbed a banana and ate it. He was out the door again.

Brown went to another of his campaign headquarters, a converted barbershop that by now was jammed with 250 people. Mirrors lining the walls


made the crowd seem even larger and more impressive. Brown did not stay long. He went out for a sandwich and stopped by City Hall to briefly watch the vote tally as it came in. At about 10:30 P.M. he returned to his campaign rally at the converted barbershop. A few minutes later, he claimed victory.

It was not even close. Brown routed Gaffney, 14,308 votes to 11,463, to win the Democratic nomination for the Eighteenth Assembly District seat.[44] The margin of victory was practically the number of new voters his campaign had registered.

Now Brown faced Republican attorney Russell Teasdale, a former Democrat who had switched parties in 1960,[45] in the general election for the Eighteenth Assembly District seat. In his 1961 reapportionment of the Eighteenth Assembly District, Phillip Burton had made certain that the Republican nominee for the fall general election would stand little chance of winning because of the two-to-one Democratic voter registration margin. But Brown could leave nothing to chance. San Francisco had never elected a Negro to the Legislature. Party registration might mean nothing. Attempting to imbue his campaign with a patina of respectability, Brown named a "cabinet" of advisers on various issues, including his law school friend, Gerald Hill. Brown was pictured in the newspapers surrounded by his "cabinet," all of them white.[46] Except for Hill, none were really insiders with the campaign.

Brown also got a new infusion of precinct workers from the anti-Proposition 14 campaign in San Francisco, which Hill was managing. When there was not enough to do in the No-on-14 campaign, Hill sent volunteers to Divisadero Street to help Willie Brown.[47]

The general election campaign soon took an ugly turn. Teasdale took to red-baiting Brown over an endorsement from the W.E.B. Du Bois Club, named for the socialist cofounder of the NAACP.[48] Teasdale resorted to the smear tactics that Gaffney had avoided: "I demand to know why Brown has accepted the support of these socialists who, under the name of an avowed Communist, openly espouse the principles of Marx and Lenin."[49]

Brown went on the attack, accusing Teasdale of "raising the ghost of [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy" and "engaging in racial smears." Asked by reporters to explain, Brown said that Teasdale's supporters had gone door-to-door asking voters whether they supported Teasdale "or the young Negro gentleman." As for the W.E.B. Du Bois Club, Brown said it was working to elect all Democratic candidates (which was not completely true) and to defeat the proposed repeal of the open housing law, Proposition 14 (which was true). "I would like to ask my opponent whether he accepts the support of those rightists and extremist groups traditionally found in the camps of candidates who use this type of smear tactics," said Brown.[50]

Brown took Teasdale's barbs personally. In return, Brown called Teasdale "pathetic" and said he was a racist for misspelling his name as "Willy" on campaign literature. "I do not think the question of race has anything to do with my campaign. Yet he even puts it in his literature. It says 'Defeat


Willy Brown Jr., elect Russell Teasdale.' Willy Brown Jr. obviously is a Negro name. That's why he mentions the name of his opponent."[51]

The two candidates finally met face-to-face in a debate on October 19 at San Francisco State College—Brown's alma mater. The crowd, estimated at seven hundred, sat under an unseasonably hot sun at noon to hear what turned into a less-than-enlightening dialogue about Proposition 14.[52] Both candidates opposed the measure, both proclaimed they favored open housing. Agreement ended there. Teasdale accused Brown of contributing to a "white backlash" that was fueling the campaign for Proposition 14. Brown countered that he "did not fear the white backlash." Brown then said the country needed a "Marshall Plan" for Negroes to "prepare for the mainstream of American life."

The following week, Teasdale went back to hammering Brown over the W.E.B. Du Bois Club, quoting FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's statement that the organization was the "newest facade" for the Communist Party.[53] Teasdale's latest attack rated only three paragraphs buried inside the Chronicle . Teasdale might have gotten somewhere if he had skipped the red-baiting and simply attacked Brown for his support of demonstrators. Instead, Brown was able to ignore his opponent's inept attack and go on the high road. Brown staged a series of community forums on four issues: taxation, social welfare, land-use planning, and transportation. The forums received a relatively lengthy article in the Examiner .[54] They were forerunners of another technique Brown would employ to promote his candidates for the Assembly.

"The voters are entrusting their franchises in you," Brown said. "I think a person running for office has the duty to involve himself in every issue." Open housing was still at the forefront of his concerns. Under the guise of urban renewal, dilapidated buildings were being torn down, but their occupants had nowhere to go because whites would not rent to blacks in many of the city's neighborhoods. "Throughout our meetings with the people of the Eighteenth district," Brown said, "one thing became overwhelmingly clear—displacement of large groups of people is not an acceptable way of solving the problems we face."[55]

When the election sputtered to its close, Brown won handily, polling 32,886 votes to Teasdale's 22,789.[56] A recent analysis of Brown's 1964 election by University of Southern California political scientists Larry Berg and C.B. Holman shows that Brown won 89 percent of the black vote and 70 percent of the wealthy white vote.[57] Asian Americans were evenly split between Brown and Teasdale. Overall, whites voted slightly more for the white Republican than for the black Democrat, but their votes were more than offset by Brown's support among other groups. "Willie Brown's initial campaign victory in 1964 appears to have been the result of a coalition between black voters and upper middle-income white voters. . . . Brown was carried into office by a 'liberal' coalition of blacks and younger, well-educated whites,"


the two political scientists concluded.[58] In other words, Brown won with a "rainbow coalition" long before the term became fashionable.

Brown's fund-raising goal for the 1964 campaign was $15,000.[59] He ended up raising $31,644, more than twice what he budgeted and almost seven times as much as he had spent two years earlier. Campaign laws in those days did not require accurate disclosure, so it is not unlikely that Brown raised and spent even more. Brown himself probably did not know the exact figures.[60] His largest donation came from Carlton Goodlett, publisher of the Sun-Reporter , who gave him $8,500, a huge amount for the era. Brown was also supported indirectly by Goodlett and other prominent African-American leaders. Among Brown's law clients in 1964 was the Beneficial Savings and Loan Association of Oakland, of which black Assemblyman Byron Rumford was the board chairman and Goodlett was president.[61]

As Brown prepared to depart for Sacramento, he rearranged his personal affairs. Brown ended his law association with Terry Francois. San Francisco was not large enough to contain both their egos, and Francois was increasingly envious of his protégé, whose star was eclipsing his own. The breaking point came when Mayor Shelley was considering appointing Francois to a vacant seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Shelley gave Francois the appointment in 1964, but not before getting a phone call from Willie Brown asking him not to do it. Outraged, Francois later told friends: "I expected Willie to oppose me. What I didn't expect is he would phone the mayor from my office to oppose me."[62]

After his election to the Assembly, Brown joined another black friend, John Dearman, in forming a new law partnership. Dearman had come to San Francisco from the Midwest and was soon heavily involved in San Francisco's civil rights movement, in which he met Brown. Physically large, Dearman had a hearty laugh and enough energy to keep up with Brown. They opened a law office on Octavia Street, on the eastern edge of the Western Addition, closer than Brown's old office to the centers of power near City Hall. "I said to him, we should combine our law practices so that his family could live in the style that they had become accustomed to," Dearman recalled.[63] Their friendship worked for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that Dearman stayed out of the limelight. He was the one friend Willie Brown could count on to never make demands, but always perform quiet personal favors when required. Brown and the even-tempered Dearman remained law partners for two decades, and their friendship never wavered.

Brown's election in 1964 made him the first African American legislator to represent San Francisco. It was also a sweet night for Phillip Burton in his fight to break the established lines of power in San Francisco. John Burton won his election to succeed his brother in the Assembly. The one cloud from the election was the passage of Proposition 14, repealing California's open housing law. And not everyone on the Left rejoiced at Willie Brown's


election. The Mallet , a black separatist newsletter in San Francisco with a surprisingly wide circulation among politicians, can be credited with first asking the question that would nag Brown for the rest of his career:

The question arises, who will he be representing? Brown, who is a Negro and whose district comprises what is known as the "ghetto" had very little to offer the Negroes of his district. His campaign for the most part was staffed by white liberals of the "sob sister" variety. . . . Most of Brown's campaign was aimed not at Negroes, but at the white liberal element who inhabit the fringes of this district. . . . For all the material distributed during the course of this campaign, hardly five Negroes could be pictured with the candidate. . . . To sum up the political outlook as it concerns Negroes in the 18th District, Willie Brown will be a tool of white liberals and black reactionaries.[64]

In the years ahead Brown was accused by Republicans of being a "fire-brand" black militant. Among his accusers was a white Republican assemblyman, Pete Wilson, who years later would be governor and Brown's chief adversary. But, in fact, Brown always kept his distance from black extremists. Beginning with his 1964 campaign, they never trusted him and Brown returned their enmity in kind. "The militants and nationalists would spend all their time arguing who was blacker than who," he once huffed.[65]

Skeptics notwithstanding, it was a sign of racial progress in the fall of 1964 that Willie Brown, age thirty, was elected to the California Legislature. The Young man who had shined shoes in Mineola, Texas, enduring the indignities of white men throwing quarters into a spittoon for him to fish out, had overcome one obstacle after another and was now taking his first step toward power. Brookie Brown was headed to Sacramento, and no one would dominate the Capitol the way he eventually would.


Chapter Nine— The Gaffney Triangle

Preferred Citation: Richardson, James. Willie Brown: A Biography. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1996 1996.