Robert J. Brown Worked With Both MLK and Nixon. Here’s What He Says Went on Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights MovementBreaking News
tags: Martin Luther King, civil rights, Richard Nixon, African American history, political history
In your new book, You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right, you describe being a liaison between business and the civil rights movement in the ’60s. How did you persuade executives to come to the table?
No businesses can be successful in the kind of environment where people are burning down places. Everybody is a potential customer, and it’s all about the money.
You then went to work in the Nixon White House. What do people get wrong about him?
All they have to do is look at Nixon’s record in terms of civil rights. When we took over the White House, there were two black [generals or admirals]. We changed that. I would review the Pentagon’s list of people nominated to be promoted to generals. If I didn’t see black people, I’d send it back.
Did Watergate change your feelings on Nixon? You were accused of being a key figure in drafting an “enemies list” of his foes.
It didn’t change too much. He made some mistakes and errors, and I know he paid for it.
You describe your work with his Office of Minority Business Enterprise as some of your proudest. How do you think that work has held up?
It revolutionized how society thought about minority enterprise, but some people don’t think that’s important. Regional offices that we opened to make sure minorities and women got a chance to get government contracts were closed under President Obama.
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