“Jerry Brown, I found, to be a man with a largely unwavering set of core values and principles who sometimes appears to choose contradictory ways in which to express those drives.”
— Director Martin Meeker, Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library, reflecting on his experience interviewing Jerry Brown
Inside the Jerry Brown Oral History
There are very few individuals who are what might be called a “shoe-in” for an Oral History Center life history interview. Governor Jerry Brown is one who easily qualifies. Brown’s career as an elected official began in Southern California in 1969 when he was elected to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees and then continued for nearly the next fifty years through a succession of high offices; in 2018 he concluded his record fourth term as governor.
In forty hours of interviews, there are at least three main areas of study of the life of Jerry Brown, and politics much more broadly, that might be impacted by the contents of this interview from today’s vantage point: the historical trajectory of key social and political issues; the influence of creative and unique ideas upon Brown and his agenda; and what might be called the philosophy of realpolitik — of how politics really works, at least according to Brown.
The Jerry Brown oral history was made possible by funding from the State Government Oral History Program, A Project of the California Secretary of State, State Archives.
Dive deeper into the political life of Jerry Brown through the Jerry Brown oral history.
“20 Shades of Jerry Brown” UC Berkeley Podcast
“We had 20 interview sessions, and I would say that in those 20 interview sessions, we had 20 different shades of Jerry Brown,” explains Oral History Center Director Martin Meeker in UC Berkeley’s 9-minute Fiat Vox podcast, “Berkeley oral history project reveals 20 shades of Jerry Brown.” Get a taste of the oral history — hear Brown talk about the medfly invasion, Linda Ronstadt, and politics past and present. Martin Meeker provides insights into this “extraordinarily detailed, thoughtful, self-critical, broad, and sweeping oral history.”
Jerry Brown Interview History
For the historians at UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center, the question was not, “Should this interview be done?” but rather, “How might it be done at all?” Get the inside story about the making of this riveting 40-hour oral history from interviewer and Oral History Center Director Martin Meeker.
California State Government Oral History Program
The Jerry Brown oral history is a part of the State Government Oral History Program and is the cornerstone of the re-launch of the program under California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. All of the oral history materials (recordings and transcripts) will be deposited with the California State Archives and available to users through their website as well.
Read the transcript of the 40-hour oral history. In this oral history, the following topics are discussed at length: family background and upbringing; education, religion, and friendships; the political career of Pat Brown; college, seminary, and law school; California statewide elected offices, including Governor of California; campaigns for elected office, including for US President; election reform; taxation, budgets, and deficits; law, the courts, and criminal justice reform; immigration; the environment and climate change; education reform, charter schools, and higher education; Oakland, CA; popular culture, journalism, and political campaigns; political philosophy, theories of governance, and applied politics.
KQED Forum Podcast Featuring OHC Director Martin Meeker
Politics was the family business. The Democratic party was tribal for Brown. Listen as Oral History Center Director Martin Meeker, and KQED interview partners Scott Shafer and Guy Marzorati, talk about the unique political perspective and interviewing style of Jerry Brown.
KQED Podcast: The Political Mind of Jerry Brown
From KQED: The Political Mind of Jerry Brown brings listeners the wisdom of the former Governor, Mayor, and presidential candidate. The Oral History Center’s Martin Meeker and Todd Holmes, and KQED’s Scott Shafer, interviewed Brown for more than 40 hours, covering the former governor’s life and half-century in the political game – and Brown has some lessons he’d like to share. Premiering January 8 with hour-long episodes on KQED 88.5 FM every Wednesday at 8pm through January 29.
The Library acquired PoliticoPro-California. Politico is a major news organization that has covered U.S. politics and government since 2007, and they have expanded their coverage to larger states like California. In additional to finding news articles about the state, the Datapoint and Documents modules contain current primary source information and info-graphics used in Politico’s reporting for California and the nation. These can be reused in papers, classes, or other research projects. Users can also sign up for customized news alerts and the ability to correspond with Politico’s news reporters.
Access Note: This database is currently unavailable for use through the proxy. For off campus access, please use the VPN.
Now available: Hadley Roff: A Life in Politics, Government and Public Service Oral History Transcript with video excerpts below. Hadley Roff (1931-2016) was a top aid and advisor to four San Francisco mayors from 1967 to 1992: Joseph Alioto, Dianne Feinstein, Art Agnos and Frank Jordan. He attended Stanford University from 1950 to 1954 where he was editor of the Stanford Daily. From 1957 to 1964 he was a night beat reporter for the S.F. News. He became a vocal advocate for firefighter safety and was beloved by the San Francisco Fire Department, serving on the Fire Commission beginning in 1995. In these interviews, Roff recalls the turbulence in San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s: Harvey Milk’s and George Moscone’s assassinations in 1978, Jonestown, the early years of the AIDS crisis. He recalls events on the national stage as they played out in San Francisco: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and Watergate, among others. In 1992 Roff was press secretary for Dianne Feinstein’s senatorial campaign, and head of her California senate staff office from 1992 to 1995.
Slaying the Dragon of Debt: OHC’s Look into Federal Budgets from the 1960s into the 2000s.
Debt and deficits, budget reconciliation, CBO scoring. These arcana have again appeared at the forefront of social media feeds and on the front pages of newspapers as Congress and the White House attempt to pass the new President’s agenda while figuring out how to pay for it.
Back in 2010, OHC director Martin Meeker and then-postdoc scholar Patrick Sharma embarked on a brief but intensive oral history project — that we called “Slaying the Dragon of Debt” — exploring the recent history of federal debt and deficits. The central question asked at the beginning of the project went something like this: how was it that after running deficits for over 25 years, the federal government was able to produce a budget surplus in 1998 and every year until 2001, when we returned to deficits? As the project progressed, plenty of other questions were asked as well: Can the surpluses be attributable to President Clinton’s fiscal policies? To the belt-tightening mandated by Congressional Republicans? To the monetary policies of Alan Greenspan’s Fed? To broader economic trends, such as the dot.com boom? To something else entirely? To all of the above?
As we enter into a new fiscal regime, we think it is useful to return to our project on debt and deficits and attempt to seek insights into the complex workings of federal fiscal and monetary policy and how those policies are influenced by profound political shifts , warring parties, and memorable characters. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is now brought under criticism by the White House Office of Management and Budget, we want to know how have those offices worked together — or against one another — in the past. Has the work of CBO always been politicized and if so, how? Is the kind of rhetoric we hear today something entirely new or is it just another chapter in the decade’s long battles around government spending?
This project featured interviews with several former directors of the CBO, including Douglas Holtz-Eakin, June O’Neill, Rudolph Penner, Robert Reischauer, and Alice Rivlin. The project also includes interviews with a handful of former OMB directors, including: James McIntyre, Jim Miller, and, again, Alice Rivlin. Perhaps among the most revealing interviews are those with key staffers who worked behind the scenes, crafting legislation, and making policy. We recommend reading through the oral histories with Bill Hoagland, who served as staff director for the Senate Budget Committee from 1986 to 2003, and Joseph Minarik, who was the chief economist at the OMB throughout Clinton’s two terms. Let us know what you think!