- Brown, Ronald Harmon
▪ 1997U.S. politician (b. Aug. 1, 1941, Washington, D.C.—d. April 3, 1996, near Dubrovnik, Croatia), was regarded as an adroit deal maker and political strategist who helped resuscitate both the Democratic Party as its national chairman (1989-93) and the U.S. Department of Commerce as its secretary (1993-96). A prominent member of Pres. Bill Clinton's Cabinet, he wielded heavy influence in international trade but was criticized for alleged misdealings in his personal finances. Born into a successful African-American family, Brown was raised in Harlem, New York City, where his father managed the Hotel Theresa, which catered to the black elite. Educated at exclusive preparatory schools, he attended Middlebury (Vt.) College (B.A., 1962) and then served (1963-67) in the army. He returned to New York City, became involved in the civil rights movement, and studied law at St. John's University (J.D., 1970) under Mario M. Cuomo, later governor of New York. Brown worked for the National Urban League (1968-79) before moving to Washington, D.C., where he helped manage the presidential campaigns of Edward Kennedy in 1980 and Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. In 1981 he joined the law firm Patton, Boggs & Blow and the Democratic National Committee. He worked to unite the Democratic Party at its 1988 and 1992 national conventions. As secretary of commerce, Brown traveled widely, securing trading partners in emerging nations. He was on such a trip, to war-torn Croatia, when he was killed in a plane crash along with a score of U.S. corporate executives.
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