This Day In History: April 3, 1996

April 3, 1996 Ron Brown killed in plane crash

Ronald H. Brown, the U.S. secretary of commerce, is killed along with 32 other Americans when their U.S. Air Force plane crashes into a mountain near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Brown was leading a delegation of business executives to the former Yugoslavia to explore business opportunities that might help rebuild the war-torn region.

Brown, born in Washington, D.C., in 1941, grew up in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where he worked as a welfare caseworker before joining the U.S. Army. After holding positions in the National Urban League, an advocacy group for the renewal of inner cities, he became a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar and served as chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 1989, he was elected chairman of the Democratic Party National Committee, becoming the first African American to hold the top position in a major political party in the United States. As chairman, Brown played a pivotal role in securing the 1992 election of Bill Clinton, the first Democratic president in 12 years. In 1993, Clinton appointed Brown to be the first African American secretary of commerce, a position he held until his death in 1996.

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