Former Assembly Minority Leader Willie Brown passed away on Monday. He was 68. Brown spent 24 years representing Newark in the State Assembly.
First elected in 1973, at age 33, he was a member of a freshman Essex Assembly delegation that included Richard Codey. He was re-elected eleven times. He was the Assembly Minority Leader in 1988 and 1989. When Democrats took control of the Assembly in 1989, the caucus picked Joseph Doria for Speaker and Wayne Bryant for Majority Leader; Brown became the Speaker Pro Tempore.
Brown endorsed Republican Chuck Haytaian, the Assembly Speaker, in his 1994 U.S. Senate bid against incumbent Democrat Frank Lautenberg.
In 1997, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman nominated Brown for a seat on the Board of Public Utilities. The Senate never confirmed him amidst published reports that he had not paid more than $18,000 in water bills on several properties he owned. He challenged Ronald Rice in the 2001 Democratic primary for State Senator, but was unsuccessful.
In the 1980’s, Brown led the fight to halt the investment of state pension funds doing business with South Africa. He was arrested during a 1985 protest outside the South African consulate in New York, along with then-Assembly Speaker Alan Karcher and Rutgers University President Edward Bloustein.