Former Congressman Jack Brooks of Texas dies at 89

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 05, 2012 12:54 PM

By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - Former Texas Congressman Jack Brooks, who was a rare southern supporter of civil rights legislation and rode in the motorcade when President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas in 1963, has died. He was 89.

Brooks died Tuesday night at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas in his hometown of Beaumont after a short illness, hospital officials said Wednesday.

Brooks, a lifelong Democrat, represented southeast Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than four decades.

He was one of only a few southern members of Congress to support civil rights legislation, and earned national recognition for helping write the Civil Right Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A decade later, he played a major role in the investigation and impeachment proceedings of President Richard Nixon.

A friend and supporter of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Brooks was in the famous photo of Johnson taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One at Dallas' Love Field with widow Jacqueline Kennedy at his side. Brooks is standing behind Kennedy in the photo.

Brooks was also a supporter and close friend of the former long-time House of Representatives Speaker Sam Rayburn, who put Brooks on the House Government Operations Committee. Brooks eventually became chairman of that committee as well as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Born on December 18, 1922 in Crowley, Louisiana, Brooks moved to Beaumont at age 5 and attended public schools and Lamar Junior College. He transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism in 1943, according to the biography.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War Two and served two years in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal, Guam and Okinawa. He stayed in the Marine Corps Reserves for nearly 30 years, retiring as a colonel in 1972.

Brooks' career in public service began with his 1946 election to the Texas Legislature. He was re-elected in 1948 and earned a law degree from the University of Texas while serving in the Texas House.

He was first elected to U.S. House in 1952 at age 29, and served there until his defeat by Republican Steve Stockman in 1994.

Brooks married Charlotte Collins in 1960, and they had three children and two grandchildren.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Vicki Allen)