Politician 'Ronald H. Brown'
- Ronald Harmon Brown
(8/1/1941 4/3/1996) was the United States
Secretary of Commerce, serving during the
first term of President William J. Clinton.
He was the first person to hold this position who
was also of the African-American Ethnic Group.
He was born in Washington , D.C. , and
was then raised in Harlem , New York , in a
middle-class family of Mixed-Race Lineage.
Brown attended Hunter College Elementary
School and Rhodes Preparatory School .
Ron Brown was the first person of the
African-American Ethnic Group to
become a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon,
a national men's collegiate fraternity.
Upon learning of Brown's membership, the National
Headquarters of Sigma Epsilon demanded that the
chapter expel him or face closure of the chapter.
The chapter declined to remove Brown
and was shut down by the national
organization, but was later re-opened.
Brown joined the army in 1962, after graduating
from Middlebury College in Vermont ,
and served in South Korea and Europe .
After being discharged in 1967, Brown
joined the National Urban League, a leading
economic-equality group in the United States .
Meanwhile, Brown enrolled in law school at St.
John's University and obtained a degree in 1970.
Rising star in the Democratic Party
By 1976, Brown had been promoted to Deputy
Executive Director for Programs and Governmental
Affairs of the National Urban League.
However, he resigned in 1979 to work as
a deputy campaign manager for Senator
Edward M. Kennedy, who sought the
Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
Brown was hired in 1981 by the Washington ,
D.C. , law firm Patton, Boggs & Blow as
a lawyer and a lobbyist.
In May, 1988, Brown was named by Jesse L.
Jackson to head Jackson 's convention team
at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta .
Brown was named along with several
other experienced party insiders to
Jackson 's convention operation.
By June, it was apparent that Brown
was also running Jackson 's campaign.
Brown was elected chairman of the Democratic
National Committee in 1989, and played an
integral role in running a successful 1992
Democratic National Convention and in Bill
Clinton's successful 1992 presidential run.
President Clinton then appointed Brown to the
position of Secretary of Commerce in 1993.
On April 3, 1996, while on an official trade mission,
the Air Force CT-43 (a modified Boeing 737) carrying
Brown and 34 other people, including New York
Times Frankfurt Bureau chief Nathaniel C. Nash,
crashed in Croatia . While attempting an instrument
approach to Èilipi airport, the airplane crashed
into a mountainside killing everyone onboard.
TSgt Shelly Kelly initially survived the crash
only to die from her wounds hours later
while being transported off the mountain.
Speculations as to the circumstances surrounding the
plane crash that caused Brown's death have included
many government cover-up and conspiracy theories.
The official U.S. Air Force report
The official Air Force accident investigation
board report noted several reasons that led to the
CT-43, formerly a training aircraft that had been
converted to distinguished visitor travel, to crash.
Chief among the findings was a "failure of
command, aircrew error and an improperly
designed instrument approach procedure".
Notably the inclement weather was not deemed
a substantial contributing factor in the crash.
President Clinton established the Ron Brown
Award for corporate leadership and responsibility.
The Conference Board administers
the privately funded award.
The U.S. Department of Commerce also
gives out the annual Ronald H. Brown
American Innovator Award in his honor.
The largest ship in the NOAA fleet, the NOAA
Ship Ronald H. Brown, was named in honor
of his public service not long after his death.