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California Rising

California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown

Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 501
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  • Book Info
    California Rising
    Book Description:

    It is now commonplace to say that the future happens first in California, and this book, the first biography of legendary governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, tells the story of the pivotal era when that idea became a reality. Set against the riveting historical landscape of the late fifties and sixties, the book offers astute insights into history as well a fascinating glimpse of those who charted its course-including Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and the Brown family dynasty. Ethan Rarick mines an impressive array of untapped sources-such as Pat Brown's diary and love letters to his wife-to tell the unforgettable story of a true mover-and-shaker within his fascinating and turbulent political arena.California Risingilluminates a singular moment in time with surprising intimacy. John Kennedy laughs with Pat Brown. Richard Nixon offers the governor a schemer's deal. Lyndon Johnson sweet-talks the governor on the phone and then ridicules him behind his back. And as context for the human drama, key events of the era unfold in gripping prose. There is Brown's struggle with the fate of Caryl Chessman, the convicted kidnapper who gained international attention by writing best-selling books on death row. There is the tale of intrigue and politics surrounding the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964, and the violence and horror of the Watts Riots in 1965. Through the story of the life and times of Pat Brown, we witness an extraordinary period that changed the entire country's view of itself and its most famous state.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93984-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-4)

    THREE DAYS AFTER CHRISTMAS, twenty men on horseback, dressed in the coonskin caps and buckskin clothing of mountain men, rode up to the Capitol in Sacramento. They presented the governor with a leather scroll commemorating the day, a milestone for their state. Dignitaries said a few words, and the bells of nearby churches chimed out “Clementine.” To consecrate the moment, the riders fired a volley from their black-powder muzzle loaders that thundered through the winter air.¹

    But the guns were loaded with blanks, and the bystanders shocked by the sudden fusillade were not nineteenth-century pioneers but twentieth-century office workers emerging...


    • 1 GO-GETTERS
      (pp. 7-20)

      PAT BROWN STOPPED AS HE walked down the aisle of his official gubernatorial plane, theGrizzly,and peered out the window. Calling out to make himself heard over the drone of the propellers, he exclaimed with wonder, “Gee, will you look at that!” People sitting nearby, seeing nothing spectacular, asked Brown what he was referring to. “California,” he replied, unabashed. “Did you ever see anything like it?”¹

      Like many Americans, Brown was a man of joyful geographic bias. He lived his entire life in California and never doubted he was lucky for the privilege. As his career brought him prestige...

      (pp. 21-38)

      ON A CLEAR FALL DAY in late October 1930, Capt. Arthur D. Layne of the San Francisco Police Department received a brief, unexpected telegram from Reno: “Married this morning at Trinity Cathedral. Now staying at Riverside Hotel.” It was signed by his daughter, the former Bernice Layne, now Mrs. Edmund G. Brown.¹

      Pat and Bernice had been a couple for the better part of a decade and had been thinking about marriage and children for years. Yet the elopement was a surprise. They had discussed wedding dates and started planning the big event for Grace Cathedral, high atop the city’s...

      (pp. 39-65)

      ON A BLEAK SATURDAY in early January 1944, San Francisco’s new district attorney took the oath of office. For Brown, it was a grand day. At thirty-eight he had achieved in every way the respectability that had graced his father only fleetingly if at all. He lived in a nice house in a good neighborhood. He had a good marriage and three children. His law degree gave him public stature as well as marketable skills. Most of all, he was newly elected to one of the most important jobs in his hometown. Popular and dynamic, he was a man on...

    • 4 WAITING
      (pp. 66-86)

      WHEN PAT BROWN TOOK statewide office for the first time, California was experiencing one of its periodic population explosions. The bustling shipyards of World War II had started the most recent boom, luring thousands of workers westward with the promise of better jobs. In the years after the war, the flood of migrants persisted. The 1950 census figures, released just days before Brown’s election as attorney general, showed that during the previous decade, more than 3.5 million people had moved to the state, a rate of about 1,000 a day. In ten years California had added more new residents than...

    • 5 VICTORY
      (pp. 87-110)

      BROWN’S TRUE AMBITION WAS no secret to those who knew him. He wanted to be governor, hadalwayswanted to be governor. The San Francisco district attorney’s office had an east-facing window that offered a glimpse of the Ferry Building down by the water, then the Bay Bridge and the Berkeley hills beyond. Tom Lynch remembered Brown standing at that window, back in the winter of 1944 when he first took office, and peering into both the distance and the future. “You know, Tom,” Brown told him, “I can almost see Sacramento from here.”¹

      But he had waited, sometimes forced...


      (pp. 113-134)

      IN THE DAYS AFTER his victory, the new governor-elect and his closest aides fled to Palm Springs. They wanted time to contemplate the chores that lay ahead, and they did it in California style, planning the new administration at poolside, clad in swimsuits and slathered in suntan lotion. The only drawback was olfactory: The resort’s lawns were under repair, subjecting Brown and his team to the omnipresent stench of fertilizer.¹

      Brown offered the preeminent job of chief of staff to Fred Dutton, ringleader of the campaign and one of those along on the trip. For other posts, Brown plundered his...

      (pp. 135-153)

      SHORTLY AFTER HE BECAME GOVERNOR, Pat Brown received the first two issues of a newsletter produced by the bustling Los Angeles campus of the University of California. UCLA was, according to one of the newsletters, “the campus where the hammers never cease to ring.” Fourteen construction projects were under way simultaneously: a botany building, an addition to the geophysics hall, a neuropsychiatric wing, a student union, dormitories, a nursery and kindergarten for the children of students. Nor would the expansion soon stop. The university boasted that it was planning more than a dozen other projects, from an institute for nuclear...

    • 8 ANGUISH
      (pp. 154-179)

      IF BROWN’S FIRST YEAR brought astonishing successes—the glory of the 1959 legislative session, the development of the higher education Master Plan—there was one issue that hung over him. Before long, everyone knew, he would have to deal with the death penalty, the public policy issue that bothered him more than all others. And he would have to do it flush in the glare of international publicity.

      On the state’s death row at San Quentin Prison, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, California held the world’s most famous prison inmate, Caryl Whittier Chessman. When he arrived...

      (pp. 180-204)

      AFTER CHESSMAN, BROWN NEEDED, for once, to escape his beloved state. Public events, normally a source of great joy, had become nightmares. Crowds hooted at the mention of his name. “I was really blasted and booed from one end to the other,” he remembered. “The Walls of Jericho fell down on me.”¹

      Fortunately, he had a trip planned. Two weeks after the execution, in the middle of May 1960, he traveled to Bainbridge Island, near Seattle in Puget Sound, for a conference of western governors. Combining people and politics, such trips were usually a balm for Brown, but at this...

    • Photographs
      (pp. None)
      (pp. 205-228)

      OF ALL THE STRANGE IRONIES of the California experience, two of the most striking are physical: Southern California holds one of the world’s great metropolises, and the Central Valley has become the most agriculturally productive place on earth. Sit down with a map of the United States and data about the natural climate of each region, and you will mark off large sections of the southwestern corner as wasteland, good for growing neither plants nor people. The Southern California coast receives little rainfall—it is far drier than any place in the eastern half of the United States—and much...

      (pp. 229-252)

      IN SEPTEMBER 1961 PAT BROWN hunkered down in front of a television set to watch an announcement he did not wish to hear. Richard Nixon, the former vice president of the United States and a man who had come within a hairbreadth of winning the Oval Office, was standing before dozens of reporters and cameramen in the Statler Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The state government in Sacramento, Nixon declared, was “a mess.” California’s government was too big, its crime rate too high, its economy too sluggish. As for the “amiable but bungling man who presently is governor,” he was...


      (pp. 255-270)

      EVEN BEFORE BEATING RICHARD NIXON, Pat Brown decided it was time for a celebration. In the middle of October, with the campaign at full throttle, Brown declared he would follow through on an idea he had nurtured privately for a year. California was about to pass New York in total population—taking “its rightful place on top,” in Brown’s words—and he wanted to mark the great day.¹

      The result was a three-day bash just before New Year’s, 1963, including an extra day off for state employees and an oddball collection of observances for the public. In San Diego the...

    • 13 REJECTION
      (pp. 271-291)

      HOME AT LAST AFTER six weeks in Europe, Brown found it difficult to readjust.¹ Returning to workaday concerns was not the only adaptation he faced, for that fall he and Bernice passed a milestone of aging: Their last child enrolled in college. Kathleen’s choice baffled and frustrated her father, for she decided to attend Stanford. The builder of campuses for the University of California could not understand why his daughter would snub the state’s great public university. But he agreed to let her go, swayed by the advice of the nuns who ran her boarding school and the willingness of...

    • 14 BERKELEY
      (pp. 292-313)

      AT 3:00 A.M. on December 3, 1964—exactly one month after election day—Edward Strong, a philosophy professor who had become chancellor of the University of California’s flagship Berkeley campus, walked into the school’s main administration building carrying a bullhorn. “May I have your attention?” he called to hundreds of students occupying the building, Sproul Hall. “I have an announcement.”

      The students’ sit-in, a protest against rules that restricted political activity on campus, was unlawful, Strong said. The functioning of the university had been “materially impaired.” Patience had been exercised, but now that time had passed. “I urge you, both...

    • 15 WATTS
      (pp. 314-340)

      ON AUGUST 13, 1965—by weird happenstance a Friday the thirteenth—Pat Brown spent the evening in Athens, Greece, attending the World Congress of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Attended by thirteen thousand Greek Americans, the conference offered Brown a chance to burnish his connections with an important ethnic constituency. It was the kind of event Brown liked, but he was also looking ahead a few hours. His Greek political chores completed, he and Bernice were scheduled that night to begin a monthlong tour of Europe, a reprise of the rambling vacation they had enjoyed the year before. Their...

      (pp. 341-366)

      ONLY DAYS BEFORE WATTS EXPLODED, Pat Brown summoned his top lieutenants to a little-noticed meeting at the Governor’s Mansion. It was a powerful and well-connected group. Perhaps closest to the governor was Tom Lynch, his old friend and confidant from youthful romps at Yosemite, later his deputy in the district attorney’s office, now the attorney general of the state of California. Among others, there was also Hale Champion, Brown’s top aide as governor; Don Bradley, the architect of the victory over Richard Nixon; Gene Wyman, a Los Angeles lawyer with a Midas touch at fund-raising; Alan Cranston, the politically ambitious...

    • 17 DYNASTY
      (pp. 367-380)

      ON THE DAY REAGAN was sworn into office Brown spent the afternoon in the winter sunshine of Pasadena, watching Purdue nip Southern California 14–13 in the Rose Bowl. The pleasant weather was one of the reasons he and Bernice had decided to move south, but so was the shifting balance of the state. In Brown’s lifetime, his famous hometown had faded in importance, passed by its gauche southern rival. Los Angeles, not San Francisco, was now the imperial city of the West. As governor, Brown spent a month there every year, and the buzz of the place was attractive....

    (pp. 381-384)

    BERNICE BROWN OUTLIVED HER HUSBAND by six years. Her health declined until she was blind and bedridden, yet she upheld the tradition of a nightly cocktail and complained when her attendants watered down the drink. She died in 2002, at ninety-three.

    The political dynasty that she and Pat created had faded by then. Always looking toward the future, the West is inhospitable territory to ambitions based on a link with the past. After losing her race for governor, Kathleen Brown abandoned politics and settled into a career in high finance. Two of Pat’s nephews held local offices, but neither moved...

    (pp. 385-388)
    Ethan Rarick
  9. NOTES
    (pp. 389-458)
    (pp. 459-484)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 485-501)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 502-502)