WASHINGTON — Clarence J. Brown Jr., a former nine-term Ohio Republican congressman, took over Monday as acting secretary of commerce as the Reagan Administration began a search for a successor to the late Malcolm Baldrige.
The death of the popular Baldrige in a horse-riding accident Saturday left the Administration without a key voice on trade issues at a time of sensitive negotiations with Congress and with U.S. economic allies.
Brown, 60, second-in-command as deputy commerce secretary for the last four years, held hastily arranged meetings Monday with senior staff officials of the 33,000-employee department.
While Brown was viewed as a serious contender for the post, speculation also centered on several other possibilities, including the undersecretary for trade, Bruce Smart, a Baldrige protege who has been actively involved in trade issues; Trade Representative Clayton K. Yeutter, and Labor Secretary William E. Brock III.