George E. Brown Jr. was something of a throwback in the House of Representatives--a liberal Democrat and antiwar dove who managed to survive term after term in the Inland Empire as the region grew more conservative. But he also was a visionary who earned bipartisan respect for promoting space research and new technologies. He proposed taking lead out of gasoline more than 40 years ago and sounded early alarms about the danger of ozone loss in the atmosphere. Brown was an implacable foe of the Vietnam War from 1963 on.
The congressman, 79, died Thursday after serving 34 years in the House, longer than any other California member. He was elected to the state Assembly from Monterey Park in 1958 and to the U.S. House in 1962. In 1970, Brown gave up his House seat to run for the Senate and lost in the Democratic primary. He returned to the House two years later in a new district in San Bernardino County and was chairman of the House Science Committee in the early 1990s.
Republicans repeatedly targeted Brown for defeat, but he doggedly held onto his seat. He was a soft-spoken, unassuming man known by those close to him for his foresight and integrity. In a time when politicians too often trim their beliefs to the political winds, Brown remained faithful to his core principles. He was a public servant in the best sense of the word.