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Former congressman Jack Brooks dies

BEAUMONT - by Scott Lawrence - Jack Brooks, who served more than 40 years in Congress as a member of the Democratic Party representing Southeast Texas, and who helped author the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, has died after a sudden illness, according to a statement released by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

His funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Montagne Center on the campus of Lamar University, according to a family member.  

Watch KFDM News at 5, 6 and 10 for more on the life and political career of Jack Brooks. 

He was 89. Brooks would have turned 90 on December 18.

Brooks died peacefully Tuesday night at Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, surrounded by his family.

According to the statement, the family asks that its privacy be respected as it grieves the loss. Arrangements are pending.

He and his wife Charlotte had three children and two grandchildren.

The Jack Brooks Federal Building and Jack Brooks Regional Airport are named in his honor. In addition to sponsoring historic civil rights legislation and other significant bills, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and funding for creation of the Port Arthur seawall and extension of the Galveston seawall, Brooks was a strong supporter of organized labor and NASA.

Brooks took pride in fighting to bring federal dollars to Southeast Texas, including money for economic development projects.

Brooks was one of the longest-serving congressmen in history. As a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee he drafted the articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.

On November 22, 1963, Brooks was in the motorcade carrying President John F. Kennedy and his wife through downtown Dallas when Kennedy was assassinated. Brooks was on Air Force One when Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President.

Brooks was born in Crowley, Louisiana. In 1946, Brooks was elected to represent Jefferson County in the Texas Legislature and won re-election in 1948. He represented the Second Congressional District in Southeast Texas from 1953 through 1966, and the Ninth Congressional District from 1967 through 1995 until he was defeated by Republican Steve Stockman in an election that saw a number of Republicans sweep into office. A Democrat, Nick Lampson, defeated Stockman in the next election.

According to information from the Brooks Congressional Collection at the University of Texas' Center for American History, as a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Congressman Brooks helped write the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He played a major role during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard M. Nixon. As the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Brooks sponsored significant pieces of legislation, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. He also served as the Dean of the Texas Congressional delegation from 1979 to 1995. A graduate of the University of Texas Law School, Brooks served in the Texas Legislature from 1946 to 1950.

HOUSTON (AP) - Jack Brooks, who spent 42 years in Congress representing his Southeast Texas district and was in the Dallas motorcade in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, has died. He was 89.

Brooks died Tuesday night at Baptist Hospital of Beaumont after a sudden illness, according to a statement from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Brooks, who would have turned 90 on Dec. 18, was surrounded by family when he died, Deputy Rod Carroll said.

Brooks was among the last links to an era when Democrats dominated Texas politics and was the last of "Mr. Sam's Boys," protégés of fellow Texan and legendary 21-year Democratic House Speaker Sam Rayburn in the state's congressional delegation.

"I'm just like old man Rayburn," Brooks, from Beaumont, once said. "Just a Democrat, no prefix or suffix."

He also was a contemporary and supporter of Lyndon Johnson, who was U.S. Senate majority leader in the 1950s and later president.

Brooks was in the Dallas motorcade Nov. 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated. He's in the famous photo taken later that day aboard Air Force One at Dallas' Love Field, standing immediately behind the grief-stricken Jacqueline Kennedy as Johnson, his right hand raised, takes the oath of office from U.S. District Judge Sarah Hughes.

Brooks, first elected to the House in his far Southeast Texas district in 1952, was returned to office 20 more times and was on the verge of becoming the dean of the U.S. House when he was ousted in the Republican revolution of 1994.

Rayburn, whose 48 years rivaled Brooks' House tenure, put Brooks on the House Government Operations Committee, a panel Brooks eventually would chair. Brooks gained notoriety as a curmudgeon-like scourge of bureaucrats he grilled for wasting taxpayers' money, peering at witnesses over his glasses as he chewed on a cigar.

"I never thought being a congressman was supposed to be an easy job, and it doesn't bother me a bit to be in a good fight," Brooks once said.

A Brooks-authored law required full and open competition to be the standard for awarding federal contracts. The 1965 Brooks Act set policy for the government's computer acquisition program, requiring competitive bidding and central management. His Inspector General Act established independent Offices of Inspector General in major agencies to prevent fraud and waste.

Other Brooks bills reduced federal paperwork, provided a uniform system of federal procurement, eliminated overlapping audit requirements and established the Department of Education.

"He literally has saved American taxpayers billions of dollars through his actions in improving government efficiency and eliminating waste," former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe, a longtime friend who died in 2010, said two years earlier when Brooks donated his congressional papers, photos, correspondence and other items to the Center for American History at the University of Texas.

Brooks also served on the House Judiciary Committee, where he strongly supported President Richard Nixon's impeachment and drafted the articles of impeachment the judiciary panel adopted. Nixon, who resigned Aug. 8, 1974, referred to Brooks as "the executioner." Brooks would rise to committee chairman.

Jack Bascom Brooks was born Dec. 18, 1922, in Crowley, La., and moved to Texas at age 5. While in public schools, he worked as a carhop, grocery clerk, magazine salesman and a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise. He attended Lamar University in Beaumont, then a two-year school, and earned a degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He served with the Marines in the Pacific in World War II and retired as a colonel from the Marine Corps Reserves in 1972. He received a law degree from the University of Texas and was a two-term Texas state legislator when he was elected to the U.S. House at age 29.

He supported civil rights bills, refused to sign the segregationist "Southern manifesto" in 1956, helped write the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned racial segregation.

His congressional longevity - figures showed there were 13,858 roll call votes during his tenure - was an issue for him and other long-serving Democrats who were swept from office in 1994. Brooks also had alienated gun owners for supporting a ban on assault weapons and abortion opponents for his support of abortion rights.

Brooks married Charlotte Collins in 1960 and the couple had three children, Jeb Brooks, Kate Brooks Carroll and Kim Brooks, and two grandchildren, Matthew Carroll and Brooke Carroll.


Associated Press

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Former congressman Jack Brooks dies

Friday, December 7 2012, 11:33 AM CST
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