Lee P. Brown

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For other people named Lee Brown, see Lee Brown (disambiguation).
Lee P. Brown
Lee Brown.png
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 78)[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) is a criminologist, public administrator, politician and businessman; in 1997 he 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.

He has had a long career in law enforcement and academia; leading police departments in Atlanta, Houston and New York over the course of nearly four decades. With practical experience and a doctorate from University of California, Berkeley, he has combined research and operations in his career. After serving as Public Safety Commissioner of Atlanta, Georgia, he was appointed in 1982 as the first African-American police chief in Houston, Texas, where he implemented techniques in community policing to reduce crime.

Background and education[edit]

His parents Andrew and Zelma Brown were sharecroppers 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. 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 University of California 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, serving to 1982. Brown and his staff oversaw investigation of the Atlanta Child Murders case and increased efforts to provide safety in black areas of the city during the period when murders were committed.

In 1982 Brown was the first African American to be appointed as Police Chief to the City of Houston, serving until 1990. He was first appointed by Mayor Kathy Whitmire. There he implemented methods of Community Policing, building relationships with the city's diverse communities.[2]

In December 1989 Brown was named by Mayor David Dinkins as Police Commissioner of New York City, the first non-New Yorker appointed in a quarter of a century as head of the nation's largest police force.[2] He took over a police force that was seven times the size of Houston's, with "a complex organization of more than 26,000 officers" and a 346-member executive corps of officers at the rank of captain and above. At the time, the force was 75% white; there were issues of perception of police justice and sensitivity in a city with a population estimated to be half minorities: black, Hispanic and Asian.[2]

Brown implemented community policing citywide.

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

Mayor of Houston[edit]

In the late 1990s, Brown returned to Houston and entered politics directly, running for mayor as a Democrat. In 1997, Brown became the first African American elected as mayor of Houston. During Brown's administration, the city invested extensively in infrastructure: it started the first 7.5 mile leg of its light-rail system and obtained voter approval for an extension,[3] along with increases in bus service, park and ride facilities, and HOV lanes. It opened three new professional sports facilities, attracting visitors to the city. It revitalized the downtown area: constructing the City's first convention center hotel, doubling the size of the convention center; and constructing the Hobby Center of the Performing Arts. In addition, it built and renovated new libraries, police and fire stations. Brown initiated a $2.9 billion development program at the city's airport,[3] which consisted of new terminals and runways; and a consolidated rental car facility; in addition to renovation of other terminals and runways. He built a new water treatment plant.[citation needed]

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.

2001 election campaign[edit]

Brown undertook a massive program to reconstruct the downtown street system and replace the aging underground utility system. The accompanying traffic problems was made a campaign issue by his opponent, three-term city councilman Orlando Sanchez in the 2001 election campaign. In 2001 Brown narrowly survived the reelection challenge and runoff against Sanchez, a Cuban-born man who grew up in Houston. The election characterized by especially high voter turnout in both black and Hispanic districts.

Sanchez' supporters highlighted poor street conditions, campaigning that the "P stands for Pothole," referring to Brown's middle initial. Sanchez drove a Hummer as his campaign vehicle during this period, which was adorned with the banner, "With Brown in Town it's the only way to get around."[citation needed]

Following the death of Houston Fire Captain Jay Janhke in the line of duty, Sanchez gained endorsements from the fire/emergency medical services sector.[4] Brown changed Fire Department policy on staffing as a result of captain's death.[4] He was endorsed by the Houston Police Officers' Association.[citation needed]

The Brown-Sanchez election attracted involvement from several national political figures, who contributed to its rhetoric. Brown was endorsed by former Democratic president Bill Clinton while Sanchez was endorsed by then-President George W. Bush, former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, 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 had ethnic undertones as Sanchez, a Cuban American, was vying to become the first Hispanic mayor of Houston; he challenged Brown, who was the city's first African-American mayor. According to the U.S. Census 2000, the racial makeup of the city was 49.3% White (including Hispanic or Latino), 25.3% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 5.3% Asian, 0.18% Pacific Islander, 16.5% from other races, and 3.2% from two or more races. 37% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.[5]

Voting split along racial and political party lines, with a majority of African Americans and Asians (largely Democrats) supporting Brown, and a majority of Hispanic and Anglo voters (largely Republicans) supporting Sanchez. Brown had 43% in the first round of voting, and Sanchez 40%, which resulted in their competing in a run-off. Chris Bell received 16% of the ballots cast in the first round.[6][7]Brown narrowly won reelection by a margin of three percentage points following heavy voter turnout in predominantly Black precincts, compared to relatively light turnout in Hispanic precincts, although Hispanic voting in the runoff election was much higher than previously.

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 days after the election.

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[8]
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[9]
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. His first wife, Yvonne Brown, died of cancer after they had four children together. He is married to Frances Young, a teacher in the Houston Independent School District.

Professional and civic activities[edit]

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.

Career timeline[edit]

Legacy and honors[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lee P. Brown Biography". thehistorymakers.com. Retrieved April 6, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Todd S. Purdum, "Dinkins Names Houston's Chief To Be His Police Commissioner", New York Times, 19 December 1989, accessed 23 September 2015
  3. ^ a b c d e HELEN ERIKSEN, "Fort Bend group lauds former Houston mayor for public service", Houston Chronicle, March 31, 2005
  4. ^ a b Williams, John. "Firefighter's death stokes mayoral race". http://www.chron.com. Hearst. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ "Cumulative Report — Official Returns Harris County, Texas — Joint Elections — November 06, 2001" (PDF). http://www.cclerk.hctx.net/. Harris County Clerk's Office. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Yardley, Jim. "Heading Toward a Runoff". http://www.nytimes.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "1999 Houston Election" (PDF). City of Houston. Retrieved August 13, 2008. 
  9. ^ "2001 Houston Election" (PDF). City of Houston. Retrieved August 13, 2008. 

External links[edit]

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