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Published On: Mon, Feb 10th, 2014

This Day in History: 25 years ago Ron Brown becomes first black to chair Democratic Party

Ron Brown made history on February 10, 1989 when he was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the first black to lead a political party.

“I think it says a lot about the Democratic Party. I think we’ve always been a party in the vanguard of change in this country,” Brown told Bryant Gumbel about the nomination and what it meant. :”The first woman chairman was chosen by the Democratic Party. The first Catholic chairman by the Democratic Party. The first Jewish chairman. And now, the first chairman of African descent chosen by the Democratic Party. I think it speaks well of the party.”

Ron BrownBrown as a rising star, playing a key 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.

This made Brown the first African American to hold this position.

He was killed, along with 34 others, in a 1996 plane crash in Croatia.

On January 8, 2001, Brown was presented, posthumously, with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton. The award was accepted by Brown’s widow, Alma Brown. President Clinton also established the Ron Brown Award for corporate leadership and responsibility.

Brown’s legacy is widely overlooked and overshadowed by civil rights leaders and now, the current President, Barack Obama, who should credit Ronald Brown for paving the way in modern politics.

 

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