Jerry Brown’s Lasting Legacy as California’s Governor

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SACRAMENTO — Jerry Brown was sworn in as governor of California for the first time in 1974.

At the age of 36, he was one of the youngest governors in the state’s history. He was single, liberal and viewed as a maverick.

“I come to work in the morning and I do my job,” he said in a 1977 interview. “I try to say being governor is no big deal.”

As governor, he was famously frugal. He surprised voters when he ditched the 12,000-square-foot governor’s mansion Ronald Reagan had built for a small apartment near the Capitol, where he slept on a futon on the floor.

He also sold the governor’s limo and jet. Instead, he drove around in a blue Plymouth sedan and flew commercially.

For more than 40 years Brown chartered a unique path in politics.

In 1958, when his father, Pat Brown, was elected governor, Jerry Brown was studying to become a Jesuit priest.

“After three years of poverty, chastity and obedience, I decided to leave and I went to Berkeley,” Brown once said.

After just two years in office, Brown rose to national fame, earning the nickname “Governor Moonbeam” for his then “new age ideas,” like his pushing for alternative energy and suggesting the state put a weather satellite in space.

He also ran for president three times — twice while he was governor. The third time was in 1992, nearly a decade after his second term ended.

“I remember my campaign for president in ’92,” Brown said in December in front of members of the Sacramento Press Club. “My campaign manager, Jody, she just put the first two months on her credit card. I don’t know if anyone has ever run for president on their campaign manager’s credit card but I did.”

For Brown, three times on the presidential campaign trail wasn’t the charm. He failed all three times to win the Democratic nomination.

“Well the trouble is when you want to run for president you have to be on the east coast,” he said in December. “You got to have a lot of rich friends. You got to cultivate the establishment more than was my mood in the ’70s.”

Fifteen years later, Brown returned to public office as the mayor of Oakland, the state attorney general and then, in 2010, he announced he was going to make history and run for governor again.

In 2011, Brown was sworn into an unprecedented third term as governor. Once the youngest governor of California, Brown became the oldest at the age of 72.

“As the song says, ‘California here I come, right back where I started from,'” Brown said at the time.

Three years later, he was easily elected to his fourth and final term as governor.

“The essence of leadership is knowing when to hold and when to fold, when to move forward and when to stay still and when to maneuver in another direction,” Brown said at the Press Club event.

Now, at the age of 80, he’s ready to maneuver toward retirement and out of the political spotlight.

“Well I’ve got a ranch, I’ve got cows. I’m planting olive trees,” he told FOX40. “I’ve got plenty of things to do, I’ll find ways to be helpful. You never know.”

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