Guest post by Secretary John Bryson 
Today at the Department of Commerce, we remember the contributions of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, a committed public servant who dedicated his life to strengthening America’s prosperity and making a difference.
Sixteen years ago today, a plane crash took the lives of Secretary Ron Brown, 11 Commerce employees, and 23 other U.S. and Croatian citizens, during a trade mission to Croatia. The trip was planned to help the recovering economy of the war-torn Balkans–a mission consistent with Brown’s legacy as a strong supporter of developing economic opportunity and growth both here and abroad.
During his tenure at the Commerce Department, Brown was an influential figure and tireless advocate for American businesses. His accomplishments as Secretary included helping the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rebuild depleted fisheries and modernizing the National Weather Service. Secretary Brown also worked with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to lead the Information Infrastructure Task Force, laying the groundwork for the Internet boom. In addition, Brown led trade missions to five different continents that led to more than $80 billion in foreign deals for U.S. businesses–helping support good jobs for hardworking families here at home.
Secretary Brown was also a trailblazer throughout his life. Early on, he was the first African American to integrate his college fraternity and to become a partner at the prestigious Washington law firm, Patton Boggs & Blow. Later, he became the first African American chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and then, the first African American Secretary of Commerce, where he served for three years under President Bill Clinton.
Around the Department of Commerce, he was highly regarded for his warm, engaging personality and his pride for working on a team that was focused on growing the American economy. Even though his passing was a huge tragedy and loss for all of us–family, friends, and colleagues–his legacy as Secretary of Commerce continues to live on in the work we do every day supporting American businesses and creating U.S. jobs.