George Leslie Brown, former lieutenant governor of Colorado was the first African American to hold statewide office. Brown became the nation's first African American governor since Reconstruction. He played a significant role in Colorado politics for nearly 25 years.
Brown was born on July 1, 1926, in Lawrence, Kansas. He was a star athlete in basketball, football, and track - all before graduating high school in 1944. He served in pilot training with the Tuskegee Airmen toward the end of World War II.
In 1950, Brown earned a journalism degree from the University of Kansas and did graduate work at the Harvard Business School, the University of Colorado, and the University of Denver. Brown moved to Denver where he worked as a reporter and editor for The Denver Post before entering politics. In the early 1970s, he was the director of Denver's Housing Authority, and was credited with improving social conditions for minorities in Denver.
In 1955, Brown made history when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. He was later elected to the state Senate, where he served 18 years, and was reelected to five consecutive four-year terms. He continued working for The Denver Post, covering the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. While he was serving his fifth Senate term, he was elected lieutenant governor of Colorado, a position he held for four years.
Brown's political tenure in Colorado was blemished by controversy in 1978, when he pardoned a friend who had been convicted of murder, while Governor Richard Lamm was on vacation. The governor revoked the pardon when he returned. An oversight budget for Brown's office was also a source of friction between the governor and Brown. Brown dropped from Lamm's reelection ticket in 1978. Brown described the office of lieutenant governor as "a very frustrating position in a number of ways," as reported by Matt Schudel, Washington Post, April 7, 2006.
In 1979, Brown left Colorado and joined the Grumman Corporation, where he was later promoted to senior vice president in charge of the firm's regional offices, becoming the first African American corporate officer in a major U.S. aerospace company. He left Grumman in 1990.
After Grumman, Brown held a variety of managerial and consulting positions. He also served on several boards and was advisor to numerous organizations and companies.
On March 31, 2006, George L. Brown died in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 79 years old.
"George L. Brown, 79; First Black to Hold Statewide Office in U.S.," Los Angeles Times, Times Staff and Wire Reports, April 5, 2006.
"Pioneering Politician George L. Brown, 79" by Matt Schudel. Washington Post Staff Writer, April 7, 2006 at http:washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/06/AR200604060217...
The Black Past, at http://www.blackpast.org/aaw/brown-george-l-1926-2005.
The History Makers, at http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/honorable-george-l-brown.