UC Berkeley Oral History Center: Jerry Brown Oral History

“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

Bancroft Roundtable: Thursday, February 20 at noon in the Lewis-Latimer Room of The Faculty Club
Brown, Behind the Scenes: Contending with Governor Jerry Brown and His Oral History 
In this presentation, OHC historians Martin Meeker and Todd Holmes will provide the behind-the-scenes story of a remarkable interview with a singular Californian and offer an initial perspective on how this oral history might influence our understanding of California and its political culture.

Inside the Jerry Brown Oral History

Jerry Brown first gubernatorial portrait
First official gubernatorial portrait of Jerry Brown by portrait artist Don Bachardy, 1984

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

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.

Governor Gray Davis Foreword to the Jerry Brown Oral History
When Gray Davis tried to have a hole in the governor’s rug repaired, Jerry Brown responded, “That hole will save the state at least $500 million, because legislators cannot come down and pound on my desk demanding lots of money for their pet programs while looking at a hole in my rug!” Find out why Gray Davis, the 37th Governor of the State of California, who served as chief of staff to Jerry Brown during his first two terms as governor (1975-1981), thinks Jerry Brown is one of the most consequential governors in California history.

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.

Jerry Brown Oral History Transcript

Todd Holmes, Jerry Brown, Martin Meeker
(L to R) Oral History Center Interviewer Todd Holmes, Governor Jerry Brown, and Oral History Center Director Martin Meeker in January 2020

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.

Montage Jerry Brown
KQED Podcast: Inside the Political Mind 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.

 


Primary Sources: ProQuest Executive Branch Documents 1933-1942

The Library has added Part 2 (19333-1939) and Part 3 (1940-1942) to its acquisition of Executive Branch Documents, accessible through ProQuest Congressional. This resource contains documents produced by federal government departments, agencies, and commissions that were not included in the U.S. Serial Set.


Primary Source: 17th-18th century domestic recipe manuscripts digitzed at Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library holds a fascinating collection of recipe manuscripts dating from the 16th to 19th centuries. One of their digitization projects has made available the 75 manuscripts dating from the 17th century, some of which span the 18th century.

All recipe books are available under a Creative Commons Attribution license; they can be freely downloaded in PDF format and reused in any situation, so long as attribution is given to Wellcome Library.


Trial: Berg Fashion Library

The Berg Fashion Library is a unique online portal which offers fully cross-searchable access to an expanding range of Berg content collections – including the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion online, e-books, reference works, images, and much more.
The resources here may be of interest to students and scholars in disciplines as diverse as anthropology, art history, history, sociology, geography, folklore, museum studies, theater, and cultural studies as well as fashion and textiles.
Our trial runs from 23 January through 28 February 2015.
Send comments and feedback to Kathryn Wayne.

Primary Sources: Law and Society Since the Civil War

One last resource recently required through by the Law Library is ProQuest History Vault: Law and Society Since the Civil War

This module consists of 11 collections from the Harvard Law School Library. These are the papers of Albert Levitt, Felix Frankfurter, Livingston Hall, Louis D. Brandeis, Richard H. Field, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Roscoe Pound, the Sacco-Vanzetti Case, Sheldon Glueck, William H. Hastie, and Zechariah Chafee. Taken together, Frankfurter’s and Brandeis’s papers provide a behind-the-scenes view of the Supreme Court between 1919 and 1961. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Papers include Holmes’s correspondence from 1861 through 1935. Holmes was a prolific and brilliant correspondent and his letters have been acknowledged as an extraordinary record of a wide-ranging and imaginative intellect. The Sacco-Vanzetti case papers offer researchers an inside view of the legal strategy in this controversial case.


Primary Sources: Women’s Studies Manuscript Collections

Another recent purchase of the Law Library was ProQuest History Vault: Women’s Studies Manuscript Collections

This valuable collection of materials from the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College tells the story of the fight for voting rights for women at the national, regional, and local levels. The papers of key national leaders like Julia Ward Howe, Anna Howard Shaw, and Matilda Gage are included. Equally important are the papers of lesser known state and local leaders like Catharine Waugh McCulloch of Illinois, Olympia Brown of Wisconsin, and Nellie Nugent Somerville of Mississippi. In addition to the Voting Rights papers, this module also includes records on women involved in national politics, like Mary Dewson and Jeannette B. Rankin.


Primary Sources: NAACP Papers: Education, Voting, Housing, Employment

Another purchase of the Law Library gives us access to the NAACP Papers on Education, Voting, Housing, Employment

The Education files in this collection document the NAACP’s systematic assault on segregated education that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and subsequent efforts to implement the Brown decision. The 1916–1950 files in this collection document the NAACP’s campaign against the “white primary,” discriminatory registration practices, and the “grandfather clause.” Files from 1956–1965 chronicle the NAACP’s efforts to capitalize on the 1957 Civil Rights Act and the much stronger Voting Rights Act of 1965. This collection also documents the NAACP’s wide-ranging campaign regarding equal employment opportunities. The armed forces portion is an exceptionally rich documentary source on African Americans in the armed forces between 1918 and the early 1950s and includes the complete extant files of the NAACP’s Department of Veterans Affairs.


Primary Sources: NAACP Papers: Education, Voting, Housing, Employment

Another purchase of the Law Library gives us access to the NAACP Papers on Education, Voting, Housing, Employment

The Education files in this collection document the NAACP’s systematic assault on segregated education that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and subsequent efforts to implement the Brown decision. The 1916–1950 files in this collection document the NAACP’s campaign against the “white primary,” discriminatory registration practices, and the “grandfather clause.” Files from 1956–1965 chronicle the NAACP’s efforts to capitalize on the 1957 Civil Rights Act and the much stronger Voting Rights Act of 1965. This collection also documents the NAACP’s wide-ranging campaign regarding equal employment opportunities. The armed forces portion is an exceptionally rich documentary source on African Americans in the armed forces between 1918 and the early 1950s and includes the complete extant files of the NAACP’s Department of Veterans Affairs.


Primary Sources: NAACP Papers: The NAACP’s Major Campaigns

Thanks to the Law Library, we now have access to the ProQuest History Vault collection: NAACP Papers: The NAACP’s Major Campaigns–Scottsboro, Anti-Lynching, Criminal Justice, Peonage, Labor, and Segregation and Discrimination Complaints and Responses

The focus of this module is on the NAACP’s efforts to combat lynching, mob violence, discrimination in the criminal justice system, and white resistance to civil rights efforts. A particularly rich set of records in this module is the NAACP file on one of the most celebrated criminal trials of the 20th century—the case of the Scottsboro Boys. These files are supplemented by materials on segregation and discrimination complaints regarding public accommodations and recreational facilities sent to and investigated by the NAACP, and records on discrimination in employment.