Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. (born March 20, 1934 in Mineola, Texas) is an American political figure who served over 30 years in the California legislature, after which he became the first African American mayor of San Francisco. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He served as mayor from January 8, 1996, after defeating incumbent Frank Jordan, until January 8, 2004, when he was succeeded by Gavin Newsom. He was previously a member of the California State Assembly from 1964-95, and was Speaker of the Assembly from 1981-95. He graduated from San Francisco State University and from the Hastings College of the Law.
Brown's long service in the Assembly, coupled with that body's tenure system for leadership appointments, gave Brown almost complete control over the California Legislature as the Assembly Speaker. Brown was extremely popular in his home of San Francisco, though unpopular in the rest of the state, and he wielded great control over legislative affairs and political appointments, making his removal from his position as Speaker politically difficult. Partially to remove Brown from his leadership position, Californians passed a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of the State Legislature. After Brown left office due to the term limits, the Assembly restructured their rules, giving most of the powers formerly held by the Speaker to a leadership committee made up of senior members of both parties.