Lee P. Brown

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For other people named Lee Brown, see Lee Brown (disambiguation).
Lee P. Brown
59th Mayor of Houston
In office
January 2, 1998 – January 2, 2004
Preceded by Bob Lanier
Succeeded by Bill White
Chief of Police of Houston
In office
Appointed by Kathy Whitmire
Preceded by B. K. Johnson
Succeeded by Elizabeth Watson
New York City Police Commissioner
In office
Appointed by David Dinkins
Preceded by Richard J. Condon
Succeeded by Raymond Kelly
3rd Director of National Drug Control Policy
In office
January, 1993 – December 12, 1995
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Bob Martinez
Succeeded by Barry McCaffrey
Personal details
Born (1937-10-04) October 4, 1937 (age 77)[1]
Wewoka, Oklahoma
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Frances Young
Alma mater Fresno State University
San José State University
University of California, Berkeley
Profession Criminologist, Educator, Security Consultant

Lee Patrick Brown (born October 4, 1937) had a long-time career in law enforcement, leading police departments in Atlanta, Houston and New York over the course of nearly four decades. During this time he helped to implement a number of techniques in community policing that appeared to result in substantial decreases in crime. In 1997 Brown was the first African American to be elected mayor of Houston, Texas. He was reelected twice to serve the maximum of three terms from 1998 to 2004.

Background and education[edit]

His parents Andrew and Zelma Brown were share croppers in Oklahoma, and Lee Brown was born in Wewoka. His family, including six brothers, moved to California in the second wave of the Great Migration and his parents continued as farmers. A high school athlete, Brown earned a football scholarship to Fresno State University, where he earned a B.S. in criminology in 1960. That year he started as a police officer in San Jose, California. In fact, Brown was elected as the president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association (union) and served from 1965–1966.

Brown went on to earn a master's degree in sociology from San José State University in 1964, and became an assistant professor there in 1968. At the University of California, Berkeley, he earned a second master's in criminology in 1968, and became chairman and professor of the Department of Administration of Justice at Portland State University in the same year. He earned a doctorate in criminology from Berkeley in 1970.


In 1972, Brown was appointed associate director of the Institute of Urban Affairs and Research and professor of Public Administration and director of Criminal Justice programs at Howard University. In 1974, Brown was named Sheriff of Multnomah County, Oregon and in 1976 became director of the Department of Justice Services.

In 1978 he was appointed Public Safety Commissioner of Atlanta, Georgia and served to 1982. Brown and his staff oversaw the Atlanta Child Murders case.

Brown was the first African American to be appointed Police Chief to the City of Houston, and served from 1982–1990. He was first appointed by Mayor Kathy Whitmire. There he implemented methods of Community Policing.

Brown next took his leadership to New York City as Police Commissioner where he implemented community policing citywide. After one year, crime went down in every category. That was the start of the most drastic reduction of crime in the history of that city.[2]

In 1993 Brown moved to Washington, DC for a national appointment as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (or "Drug Czar") under President Bill Clinton. The Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment.

Mayor of Houston[edit]

In 1997, Brown became the first African American elected as mayor of Houston, Texas. During Brown's administration, the city invested extensively in infrastructure: it started its first light-rail system and obtained voter approval for its extension, along with increases in bus service, park and ride, and HOV lanes; opened three new professional sports facilities; revitalized the downtown area; constructed the City's first convention center hotel, and doubled the size of the convention center; and constructed the Hobby Center of the Performing Arts. In addition, it built and renovated new libraries, police and fire stations; undertook a $2.9 billion development program at the city's airport system that consisted of new terminals and runways; a consolidated rental car facility; in addition to renovating other terminals and runways; and built a new water treatment plant.

Brown also advanced the city's affirmative action program; installed programs in city libraries to provide access to the Internet; built the state-of-the-art Houston Emergency Communications Center; implemented e-government, and opened new parks.Brown led trade missions for the business community to other countries and promoted international trade. He increased the number of foreign consulates.

Brown is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha collegiate fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi, an African-American fraternity for those who have achieved distinction in their chosen profession.

While in Houston, Dr. Brown was a Professor at Texas Southern University and Director of the university's Black Male Initiative Program.

Brown is a co-founder of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). Brown is chairman and CEO of Brown Group International, http://bgi-intl.com/, which is a business solutions organization.

2001 Campaign[edit]

Brown undertook a massive program to reconstruct the downtown street system and replace the aging underground utility system. The heavy roadway reconstruction in Houston's downtown area and accompanying traffic problems was made a campaign issue by his opponent. In 2001 Brown narrowly survived a reelection challenge and runoff against city councilman Orlando Sanchez, who campaigned against Brown's handling of Houston roadways. Sanchez' supporters made issue of poor street conditions, campaigning that the "P stands for Pothole," referencing Brown's middle initial. Sanchez himself used a Hummer adorned with the banner "With Brown in Town it's the only way to get around" as his campaign vehicle.

Sanchez used the media publicity where a Houston firefighter's death in the line of duty resulted in endorsements from the fire/emergency medical services sector. Brown was endorsed by the Houston Police Officers' Association.

The Brown-Sanchez election produced heated rhetoric and involvement from several national political figures. Brown received the endorsement of former president Bill Clinton while Sanchez was endorsed by then-President George W. Bush, former President George H.W. Bush and her wife and former First Lady Barbara Bush, Rudy Giuliani and a host of other Republicans. Some members of the President's cabinet campaigned for Sanchez in Houston. The contest also produced racial undertones as Sanchez, a Cuban American vying to become the first Hispanic mayor of Houston, challenged Brown, the city's first African American mayor. Brown's campaign drafted family members of murder victim James Byrd Jr. for taped political ads accusing Sanchez of racial insensitivity towards Blacks for failing to support a hate crimes law. Sanchez, in turn, accused Brown of playing the race card against Hispanic voters.

Voting split heavily on racial lines with a majority of Hispanic and Anglo voters supporting Sanchez and a majority of African Americans and Asians supporting Brown. Brown narrowly won reelection by a margin of three percentage point following heavy voter turnout in predominantly Black precincts, compared to relatively light turnout in Hispanic precincts.

Brown's 2001 reelection was one of the last major political campaigns supported by the Houston-based Enron Corporation, which collapsed in a financial scandal only days after Brown's reelection.

Electoral history[edit]


Houston Mayoral Election 1997
Candidate Votes % ±%
Lee P. Brown 132,324 42.26%
Rob Mosbacher 90,320 28.84%
George Greanias 53,115 16.96%
Gracie Saenz 21,950 7.01%
Houston Mayoral Election 1997, runoff
Candidate Votes % ±%
Lee P. Brown 156,307 52.67%
Rob Mosbacher 140,449 47.33%


Houston Mayoral Election 1999[3]
Candidate Votes % ±%
Lee P. Brown 139,150 67.29% +25.03
Jack Terence 47,887 23.16%
Outlaw Josey Wales, IV 19,741 9.55%


Houston Mayoral Election 2001[4]
Candidate Votes % ±%
Lee P. Brown 125,282 43.46% -23.83
Orlando Sanchez 115,967 40.23%
Chris Bell 45,739 15.87%
Houston Mayoral Election 2001, runoff
Candidate Votes % ±%
Lee P. Brown 165,866 51.67%
Orlando Sanchez 155,164 48.33%

Marriage and family[edit]

Brown was married twice. He lost his first wife, Yvonne Brown, to cancer. They had four children together. He is currently married to Frances Young, a teacher in the Houston Independent School District.

Career timeline[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lee P. Brown Biography". thehistorymakers.com. Retrieved April 6, 2009. 
  2. ^ Lee P. Brown
  3. ^ "1999 Houston Election" (PDF). City of Houston. Retrieved August 13, 2008. 
  4. ^ "2001 Houston Election" (PDF). City of Houston. Retrieved August 13, 2008. 

External links[edit]

  • Brown, Lee and Jane Ely. Lee Brown Oral History, Houston Oral History Project, October 31, 2007.
  • Fort Bend group lauds former Houston mayor for public service, Houston Chronicle, March 31, 2005.
Police appointments
Preceded by
Richard J. Condon
NYPD Commissioner
Succeeded by
Raymond W. Kelly
Political offices
Preceded by
Bob Martinez
Director of the National Drug Control Policy
Succeeded by
Barry McCaffrey
Preceded by
Bob Lanier
Mayor of Houston
Succeeded by
Bill White