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California Rising

The Life and Times of Pat Brown

Ethan Rarick

Publication Year: 2005

It is now commonplace to say that the future happens first in California, and this book, the first biography of legendary governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, tells the story of the pivotal era when that idea became a reality. Set against the riveting historical landscape of the late fifties and sixties, the book offers astute insights into history as well a fascinating glimpse of those who charted its course—including Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and the Brown family dynasty. Ethan Rarick mines an impressive array of untapped sources—such as Pat Brown's diary and love letters to his wife—to tell the unforgettable story of a true mover-and-shaker within his fascinating and turbulent political arena.

California Rising illuminates a singular moment in time with surprising intimacy. John Kennedy laughs with Pat Brown. Richard Nixon offers the governor a schemer's deal. Lyndon Johnson sweet-talks the governor on the phone and then ridicules him behind his back. And as context for the human drama, key events of the era unfold in gripping prose. There is Brown's struggle with the fate of Caryl Chessman, the convicted kidnapper who gained international attention by writing best-selling books on death row. There is the tale of intrigue and politics surrounding the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964, and the violence and horror of the Watts Riots in 1965.

Through the story of the life and times of Pat Brown, we witness an extraordinary period that changed the entire country's view of itself and its most famous state.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-4

Three days after Christmas, twenty men on horseback, dressed in the coonskin caps and buckskin clothing of mountain men, rode up to the Capitol in Sacramento. They presented the governor with a leather scroll commemorating the day, a milestone for their state. Dignitaries said a few words, and the bells of nearby churches chimed out “Clementine.” To consecrate the ...


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1. Go-getters

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pp. 7-20

Pat Brown stopped as he walked down the aisle of his official gubernatorial plane, the Grizzly, and peered out the window. Calling out to make himself heard over the drone of the propellers, he exclaimed with wonder, “Gee, will you look at that!” People sitting nearby, seeing nothing spectacular, asked Brown what he was referring to. “California,” he replied, unabashed. “Did you ever ...

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2. A New Religion

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pp. 21-38

On a clear fall day in late October 1930, Capt. Arthur D. Layne of the San Francisco Police Department received a brief, unexpected telegram from Reno: “Married this morning at Trinity Cathedral. Now staying at Riverside Hotel.” It was signed by his daughter, the former Bernice Layne, now Mrs. Edmund G. Brown.1 Pat and Bernice had been a couple for the better part ...

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3. The Chairs of Politics

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pp. 39-65

On a bleak Saturday in early January 1944, San Francisco’s new district attorney took the oath of office. For Brown, it was a grand day. At thirty-eight he had achieved in every way the respectability that had graced his father only fleetingly if at all. He lived in a nice house in a good neighborhood. He had a good marriage and three children. His law degree gave him public stature ...

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4. Waiting

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pp. 66-86

When Pat Brown took statewide office for the first time, California was experiencing one of its periodic population explosions. The bustling shipyards of World War II had started the most recent boom, luring thousands of workers westward with the promise of better jobs. In the years after the war, the flood of migrants persisted. The 1950 census figures, released just days before ...

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5. Victory

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pp. 87-110

Brown's true ambition was no secret to those who knew him. He wanted to be governor, had always wanted to be governor. The San Francisco district attorney’s office had an east-facing window that offered a glimpse of the Ferry Building down by the water, then the Bay Bridge and the Berkeley hills beyond. Tom Lynch remembered Brown standing at that window, back in the ...


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6. The Big Wallop

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pp. 113-134

In the days after his victory, the new governor-elect and his closest aides fled to Palm Springs. They wanted time to contemplate the chores that lay ahead, and they did it in California style, planning the new administration at poolside, clad in swimsuits and slathered in suntan lotion. The only drawback was olfactory: The resort’s lawns were under repair, subjecting Brown and ...

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7. All These Students

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pp. 135-153

Shortly after he became governor, Pat Brown received the first two issues of a newsletter produced by the bustling Los Angeles campus of the University of California. UCLA was, according to one of the newsletters, “the campus where the hammers never cease to ring.” Fourteen construction projects were under way simultaneously: a botany building, an addition to the ...

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8. Anguish

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pp. 154-179

If Brown's first year brought astonishing successes—the glory of the 1959 legislative session, the development of the higher education Master Plan— there was one issue that hung over him. Before long, everyone knew, he would have to deal with the death penalty, the public policy issue that bothered him more than all others. And he would have to do it flush in the glare ...

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9. Cigar Smoke

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pp. 180-204

After Chessman, Brown needed, for once, to escape his beloved state. Public events, normally a source of great joy, had become nightmares. Crowds hooted at the mention of his name. “I was really blasted and booed from one end to the other,” he remembered. “The Walls of Jericho fell down on me.”1 Fortunately, he had a trip planned. Two weeks after the execution, in the ...

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10. Building a River

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pp. 205-228

Of all the strange ironies of the California experience, two of the most striking are physical: Southern California holds one of the world’s great metropolises, and the Central Valley has become the most agriculturally productive place on earth. Sit down with a map of the United States and data about the natural climate of each region, and you will mark off large sections of ...

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11. “By God, I Can Beat That Son of a Bitch”

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pp. 229-252

In September 1961 Pat Brown hunkered down in front of a television set to watch an announcement he did not wish to hear. Richard Nixon, the former vice president of the United States and a man who had come within a hairbreadth of winning the Oval Office, was standing before dozens of reporters and cameramen in the Statler Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The ...


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12. Race and Politics

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pp. 255-270

Even before beating Richard Nixon, Pat Brown decided it was time for a celebration. In the middle of October, with the campaign at full throttle, Brown declared he would follow through on an idea he had nurtured privately for a year. California was about to pass New York in total population—taking “its rightful place on top,” in Brown’s words—and he wanted to mark the ...

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13. Rejection

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pp. 271-291

Home at last after six weeks in Europe, Brown found it difficult to readjust.1 Returning to workaday concerns was not the only adaptation he faced, for that fall he and Bernice passed a milestone of aging: Their last child enrolled in college. Kathleen’s choice baffled and frustrated her father, for she decided to attend Stanford. The builder of campuses for the University of ...

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14. Berkeley

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pp. 292-313

At 3:00 A.M. on December 3, 1964—exactly one month after election day—Edward Strong, a philosophy professor who had become chancellor of the University of California’s flagship Berkeley campus, walked into the school’s main administration building carrying a bullhorn. “May I have your attention?” he called to hundreds of students occupying the building, ...

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15. Watts

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pp. 314-340

On August 13, 1965—by weird happenstance a Friday the thirteenth—Pat Brown spent the evening in Athens, Greece, attending the World Congress of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Attended by thirteen thousand Greek Americans, the conference offered Brown a chance to burnish his connections with an important ethnic constituency. It was the ...

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16. Tired Old Governor

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pp. 341-366

Only days before Watts exploded, Pat Brown summoned his top lieutenants to a little-noticed meeting at the Governor’s Mansion. It was a powerful and well-connected group. Perhaps closest to the governor was Tom Lynch, his old friend and confidant from youthful romps at Yosemite, later his deputy in the district attorney’s office, now the attorney general of the state of...

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17. Dynasty

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pp. 367-379

On the day Reagan was sworn into office Brown spent the afternoon in the winter sunshine of Pasadena, watching Purdue nip Southern California 14–13 in the Rose Bowl. The pleasant weather was one of the reasons he and Bernice had decided to move south, but so was the shifting balance of the state. In Brown’s lifetime, his famous hometown had faded in importance, passed ...

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pp. 381-384

Bernice Brown outlived her husband by six years. Her health declined until she was blind and bedridden, yet she upheld the tradition of a nightly cocktail and complained when her attendants watered down the drink. She died in 2002, at ninety-three. The political dynasty that she and Pat created had faded by then. Always looking toward the future, the West is inhospitable territory to ambitions ...

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pp. 385-388

Writing a book is at once solitary and communal, solitary in that at some point the entire matter boils down to the author and the intimidating glare of a blank computer screen, communal in that the help of many people is nonetheless required. In my case, countless people provided countless favors. Pat Brown died more than two years before I began work on the project, yet he assisted in two ways. First, his oral history is ...

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pp. I-1-I-24

Unnumbered Pages


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pp. 389-457

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 459-484


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pp. 484-501

Production Notes

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p. 502-502

E-ISBN-13: 9780520939844
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520248281

Page Count: 501
Publication Year: 2005