Anthony G. Brown's first inkling that he might enter politics came when his sixth-grade teacher told him he had what it took to be an attorney.
Not understanding the definition of attorney, Brown scoured the encyclopedia, where the explanation of a certain type of lawyer caught his attention: attorney general.
"I remember seeing this very important position, doing justice, serving the government," said Brown during a recent interview on the campaign trail. "I said to myself, 'That's the kind of attorney I'm going to be.'"
Though his choice for public office has veered from his childhood goal - today he is Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's running mate on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket - Brown has maintained a determined streak, a zeal for accomplishing the next big thing.
From Harvard undergraduate to active duty in the Army to Harvard Law School to the Maryland House of Delegates, Brown has moved deliberately, always seeming to build credentials for the next step.
On the campaign trail, he moves freely from crowd to crowd, be it mingling with well-heeled civil rights stalwarts at Prince George's County's NAACP Freedom Fund banquet or delivering his stump speech peppered with anecdotes from his tour in Iraq to Dundalk's working-class Democratic club.
All the while, he maintains a demeanor that is at once affable and determined, easygoing and yet relentlessly enthusiastic.
"I've seen that funny side, I've seen him let his hair down," said state Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Prince George's Democrat, who met Brown 12 years ago when as a young attorney he volunteered to work for Currie's Senate campaign. "But he's a soldier. He's no-nonsense. This is a war he's in."
Indeed, the war analogy is one that Brown rarely misses an opportunity to underscore while on the stump. A lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, he was awarded the Bronze Star after nine months in Iraq working as a senior consultant to the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
To a group of state municipal leaders at a conference, he likened their positions as mayors and town managers to a military brigade, the governor's office as the division commander.
Later, Democratic U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger introduced Brown not as the Harvard grad but as a man who "will never forget our veterans."
As if it were his second home, Brown breezed into the Battle Grove Democratic Club, an institution in Eastern Baltimore County where die-hard Democrats politick over cigarettes and plastic cups of draft beer.
It had been a long day, but aside from a worn voice, Brown was still a bundle of energy, with wide eyes and a hearty handshake.
In his speech, Brown segued from Iraq to a critique of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration.
"You see in the eyes of Iraqis, who are so desperately seeking a leadership that puts people first, that puts progress ahead of politics," he said.
"That's no different here in Maryland. We may not be in as desperate a situation, but as I travel the state of Maryland, I see we want the same thing in our government. We want a leader unlike Bob Ehrlich who puts the public interests ahead of special interests."
Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Brown attended Harvard College on an Army ROTC scholarship. After graduation, he went on active duty for five years as a helicopter pilot. When Brown returned home, he enrolled in Harvard Law School, switching to the Army Reserve. There he met his wife, Patricia Arzuaga, with whom he has an 11-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.
Brown began his career as an attorney in the Washington firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, leaving later to pursue politics.
In 1994, he volunteered to run Currie's campaign for state Senate. In return, Currie nominated him to be a trustee on the board of Prince George's County Community College, and he served from 1995 until he ran for - and won - a seat in the House of Delegates in 1998.
Brown was named vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2003 and, shortly before deploying to Iraq in 2004, was appointed House majority whip.
But it was upon Brown's return from Iraq that he was catapulted to the status of Democratic Party rising star, seen as a candidate for posts including lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Perhaps because of the attention, Brown has had to work to win the acceptance of his fellow lawmakers in the General Assembly, said Currie.
"He has had to work hard because he's an up-and-comer," Currie said. "In this business, if you move that quickly, people are always kind of second-guessing you: 'How did you get that and I didn't?'"
Brown acknowledges that he was hesitant about the lieutenant governor position because its role is undefined in the Maryland Constitution. But since accepting O'Malley's offer, he has quickly taken to the task of criticizing the current administration.
In interviews, Brown makes a point of distinguishing himself from Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is running for U.S. Senate.
"Michael never really got the support from the governor and from the Republican Party," said Brown in an interview. "Regardless of what support he may get today. It was not a true partnership."
Brown is emphatic about what he sees as a key difference between him and Steele.
"This is a historic opportunity for the African-American community," he said in an interview. "While Michael Steele may have been the first African-American statewide candidate, I will be the first African-American statewide candidate where my approach to governing and my philosophy is consistent with the vast majority of the African-American community."
Race has been a particularly thorny topic this election season. The Democrats have been criticized for a lack of diversity on the statewide ticket, with Brown being the only minority among a slate of white men.
Brown blames Republicans for stirring the pot.
"They would like to isolate the top of the ticket and minimize the role of the lieutenant governor and reach the conclusion there is no diversity on the ticket," he said. "The Democratic Party has an impressive number of African- Americans in elected office. There is not a single African- American Republican who is a county commissioner or a county executive."
Even so, much of the consternation over diversity has come from Brown's African-American colleagues in the General Assembly.
Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah, a Prince George's Democrat, said much is riding on Brown's candidacy. "Anthony Brown offers [Democrats] first opportunity, and that brings us great pride," she said.
Brown credits his parents with instilling in him an ability to transcend racial barriers. His Jamaican father spent his young life in Cuba, where his parents worked in the sugar industry. He later moved to New York and became the first in his family to earn a college degree - meeting Brown's mother, a native of Switzerland, while enrolled in medical school at the University of Zurich.
The couple settled in the New York suburb of Huntington and raised five children. Despite the racially turbulent 1960s, the multiracial family felt little backlash from neighbors, said Brown.
"There was housing discrimination, we went through busing in elementary school, but a lot of it was subtle," he said. "My father was a doctor and very prominent in the community. We didn't abuse that, but as a result, we got cut a break here and there."
His parents were active in their community - his father in the NAACP, his mother as an advocate at their children's school.
Back in Dundalk, Brown describes himself as the child of immigrants who fought for their children to grab the most of the American dream.
"My parents taught me to love America and everything it stands for."
Sun reporter Doug Donovan contributed to this article.
Anthony G. Brown
Birthplace: Huntington, N.Y.
Family: Married to Patricia Arzuaga; one daughter, one son.
Education: Harvard College, bachelor's in government, cum laude, 1984; Harvard Law, 1992.
Professional experience: Army, 1984-1989, Army Reserve, 1989-present; Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, 1994-1998; Gibbs & Haller, 2000-present; House of Delegates 1999-present.