Jack Brooks Digital Legacy Project – Jack Brooks: Texas Representative

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

–Congressional Oath of Office


Sometimes a hobby can also be a metaphor. In his spare time, Jack Brooks enjoyed fixing watches and clocks—carefully restoring broken timepieces to function and synchrony. Brooks brought the focus, patience, and exactitude of a horologist to his career in public service as well. As one of the longest-serving Texans ever elected to the US House of Representatives, friend and foe alike knew Brooks for his political acumen and grasp of detail—and maybe a few other things too. He was quick to decide, slow to forget, and his Cajun-inflected bark and pugilistic streak became familiar for many who worked on the Hill.

More than anything, Jack Brooks took the business of governing seriously. Delivering effective and responsive governance was more than a just matter of expedience to him; it was a solemn trust. Brooks rigidly held himself to a high standard and relentlessly pursued accountability for those he believed had fallen short of it, no matter their office. His perennially effective electoral strategy rested on maintaining close ties to the people of his home districts in Texas and bringing federal investment, infrastructure, and influence to an oft-overlooked part of the state. Yet, when the Democratic Party faced losing large swaths of the South in order to pass landmark civil rights legislation, Brooks stood unequivocally alongside President Lyndon B. Johnson regardless of votes it may have cost him in his district.

Though a reliable institutionalist and Democrat, his political longevity allowed Brooks to develop into a rarer specimen: an independent political operator of major consequence. Brooks understood and exercised his power to materially improve the lives of Americans, and to build and protect the federal agencies and institutions that made postwar America the most powerful country in the world. Over his four decades in the House, the so-called “meanest man in Congress” demonstrated the beneficial impact that a focused and motivated public servant could have on American life and politics.

Black and white photograph of Jack Brooks at the Democratic National Convention in front of the Texas delegation.

Jack Brooks at the Democratic National Convention, 1968. camh-dob-002515

Early Life

Jack Brooks was born to Edward and Grace Brooks on December 18, 1922, in Crowley, Louisiana. The third of four children, Brooks enjoyed a pleasant and privileged early childhood. His father, a Louisiana rice trader, rode a speculative boom in the rice market to substantial wealth, even moving his family to New York City in the mid-1920s to be closer to the financial action. Brooks recalled childhood days playing with his siblings in Central Park and visiting historic mansions in upper Manhattan.

The good times did not last. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927—still the most destructive river flood in US history—put a quick and emphatic end to the rice boom and sent the Brooks family back to Louisiana in near poverty. Not long afterward, the Great Depression closed any avenue to a quick financial recovery. The Brooks family soon moved to Beaumont, Texas, renting a series of cheap lodgings. Despite his family’s newly straitened circumstances, Brooks never recalled being hungry, nor was he ever embarrassed about the lean years of his childhood.

His father’s early passing, however, meant young Jack had to work to help support the family. He showed an entrepreneurial spirit early on, opening a lemonade stand at a neighborhood firehouse. Later, he sold magazines and worked as a carhop before landing a job as a cub reporter for his local newspaper, the Beaumont Enterprise. According to biographers Timothy McNulty and Brendan McNulty, Brooks’s brief high-school career as a reporter cemented his interest in politics and afforded him valuable insight into the economy of influence.[1] As someone who was paid by the column inch by the newspaper, Brooks quickly learned that names and photographs would not be cut by his editor. He worked hard to include plenty of names and photos in order to increase his overall number of inches and therefore his salary. His people-focused approach would serve him well in his political career.

After high school, Brooks enrolled at Lamar College—a two-year institution in Beaumont—before transferring to the University of Texas to complete his undergraduate degree. He supported himself by washing dishes and delivering newspapers. While there, he also met and eventually befriended a young Dolph Briscoe, scion of one of the most politically connected families in Texas. Brooks was drawn to campus leadership, editing the Daily Texan student newspaper and earning induction into the UT Friars’ Club.

World War II

The Second World War disrupted and then defined Brooks’s passage to adulthood, as it did his entire generation. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor coincided with Brooks’s final year at UT. He was determined to play a part in America’s response, and to do it as a US Marine. Initially barred from joining due to his slight frame, Brooks leveraged his influence as the Daily Texan editor to coax a commission out of a Marine recruiter. His unusual approach worked. After base-hopping across the South for officer candidate school and communications training, he shipped out of San Francisco for the Pacific theater. Serving in communications meant that Brooks was near—and occasionally in—the fighting for much of the Pacific War, including a beach landing on the Japanese-held archipelago of Okinawa. Brooks also applied his budding political skills to the wartime supply markets, which he navigated with success on behalf of his platoon.[2] Brooks and his men were preparing for a possible invasion of the mainland when Japan surrendered. After a few additional months spent in China assisting in an operation to repatriate Japanese soldiers and support Chinese Nationalist forces, Brooks left active duty upon his return home. His battalion received a Navy Unit Commendation for their performance during the war. Brooks remained in the Marine Corps Reserve until 1972, retiring as a colonel.

Brooks graduated from the University of Texas prior to deployment, so when he returned to the United States at war’s end, he came home to a blank slate. With no business to finish or obligations to fill, Brooks was free to focus on his career of choice: politics.

Black and white photograph of Jack Brooks on Okinawa during his service with the United States Marine Corps in the Second World War.

Jack Brooks on Okinawa, 1945. camh-dob-002479

A Taste of Success: Law School and the Texas Legislature

The war gave Brooks plenty of time to plan his future, and in 1946, he seemed intent on ticking off every item on his list at once. In that year, he bought a house for his mother in Beaumont, enrolled in law school at UT, and won election as a representative in the Texas legislature, where he reunited with fellow UT alums Dolph Briscoe and future US House Speaker Jim Wright. Brooks set himself a legislative goal: securing state funding to transform his alma mater, Lamar College, into a four-year university.

Brooks made his first attempt during the 1946 session, only to be stymied by Comptroller George H. Sheppard, who used a bit of fiscal arcana to block the bill. Two years later Brooks tried again, but this time he formed a strategic partnership with his friend Dolph Briscoe—they would cooperatively push each other’s chief legislative goal. Brooks wanted money for Lamar, and Briscoe wanted state money to improve the state’s network of rural roads. Of the two goals, Brooks’s was considerably trickier. Roads were popular everywhere, but the comptroller and other influential political leaders remained largely uninterested in Brooks’s bill. Because expanding Lamar College benefitted only a small portion of the state, Brooks could not use the popularity of his bill as a lever. But he knew the benefit that passing his bill would have in his district, as Lamar was only viable option for many aspiring college students in the Beaumont area who would otherwise leave the region, perhaps never to return.

Brooks scraped for every vote on his Lamar bill. He whipped his allies and persuaded or outworked his opponents. Through what would become his signature combination of guile and tenacity, Brooks wrenched his Lamar bill out of the House, shepherded it past the Senate, and dispatched Dolph Briscoe to personally lobby Governor Beauford Jester to sign it. Decades later, Brooks still considered the bill’s passage among the highest peaks of his career. It was a first victory—one that made things demonstrably better for his constituents. It was also the kind of achievement that could power a run for higher office. Lamar became the template by which Jack Brooks would conduct politics on behalf of his constituents. He was ready to take a shot at the next level.

Joining Congress and Finding a Mentor

He did not have to wait long. In 1952, the retirement of Representative Marty Combs opened up a vacancy in Texas's Second Congressional District, which included the city of Beaumont. At that time, the Democratic Party held a lock on Texas politics, and the party primary effectively determined the winner of the general election. Although a number of local Democrats threw their hats in the ring, the most formidable was Joe Tonahill, a larger-than-life Beaumont lawyer. Brooks came close enough to deny Tonahill a plurality in the first slate before beating him in a runoff. Once again, Brooks’s ferocious work ethic had earned him an improbable victory.

Brooks entered Congress during what turned out to be a political sea change. The Democratic Party lost its House majority in 1952, continuing a pattern of trading the House majority back and forth with the Republicans. But Brooks’s first term would be his last time in the minority party. In 1954, the Democratic Party would take back the House again, initiating a four-decade period of unbroken Democratic control that would endure until the Republican landslide of 1994.

The new congressman drew the attention of Sam Rayburn, the powerful House Democratic leader from Bonham, Texas. When the two representatives first met, Rayburn had been in Congress for thirty-nine years and was soon to be elected House Speaker for the third time. The two men bonded and quickly grew close. Their relationship paved the way to Brooks’s first committee assignments and introduced Brooks to other connections as well, including Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson, who was also in Rayburn’s orbit.

By gaining admission to Rayburn’s inner circle, Brooks learned firsthand from some of the best politicos ever to play the game. His addition to the group strengthened the Texas delegation’s position as a center of power in Congress. They were joined in 1954 by Jim Wright, who won election to Congress from Texas’s Twelfth District. Brooks’s natural political talent, combined with his tutelage by Rayburn and others, helped him develop as a legislator at an unusual pace. Brooks discovered what would turn out to be an abiding legislative interest in government oversight. As the leader of the congressional Democrats, Rayburn began making plans for his young protégé.

Photograph of Jack Brooks, September 1956

Future senator Ralph Yarborough (second from left), Representative Jack Brooks (third from left), Senator Price Daniel (third from right), and other officials at the September 1956 groundbreaking ceremony for the McGee Bend Dam (later renamed the Sam Rayburn Dam). camh-dob-002481

Learning the Ropes

When the Democrats swept back into long-term control of Congress in 1954, Sam Rayburn ascended to Speaker and ensured that Brooks—although only in his second term—became chairman of a subcommittee on Government Operations. Brooks immediately launched his committee into an investigation of the General Services Administration (GSA), the agency responsible for all federal government acquisitions and property. After hearings into a pay-to-play scheme involving high-ranking functionaries in the national Republican Party, the Brooks Committee, as it was already being called, released an eyebrow raising committee report that forced several resignations. Brooks had scored his first oversight victory.

Also in 1954, the Supreme Court handed down its blockbuster Brown v. Board of Education decision, ruling that public school segregation was unconstitutional. The Court subsequently ordered public school districts to begin desegregating their campuses. The Brown decision threatened the already fraying bonds holding the national Democratic Party together. Many in the party were firmly in favor of school desegregation, but a regional wing of segregationists known as the Southern Democrats signed and circulated a public manifesto vowing resistance to any federal efforts at desegregation.

The Brown decision placed individual Democrats like Brooks in an awkward position. White voters in the district he represented aligned more closely with the Deep South on civil rights issues than much of the rest of his state, but Brooks risked losing a portion of his constituency no matter how he reacted. Brooks chose to follow his personal convictions and declined to sign the Southern Manifesto, opting instead to support the incremental civil rights legislation then moving through Congress. For Brooks and other Texas Democrats, support for civil rights was a key stance. Encouraged by the quiet leadership of Sam Rayburn, he, along with Jim Wright and others, braved the angry letters and disapproval from large sections of his district to stand against segregation and in favor of racial equality. It was a bold stance that would place him firmly on the side of racial progress for the remainder of his time in office.

Kennedy Assassination and the Rise of Texas Leadership

The early 1960s ushered in a number of changes for Brooks, as well as for the country. In 1960, Brooks (who had long been among the Hill’s most eligible bachelors) married Charlotte Collins, a congressional staffer for Texas Representative Bob Casey. A year later, Brooks lost his friend and mentor Sam Rayburn to cancer. Brooks would honor Rayburn by renaming the McGee Bend Dam and Reservoir after him. And John F. Kennedy, one of the most popular and charismatic politicians in memory, tapped Brooks’s friend and fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson as his running mate in 1960. Johnson’s ascension to the vice presidency solidified the alliance between the northeastern and Texas wings of the Democratic Party, and further added to Brooks’s growing political clout as a key member of the Texas House delegation.

Kennedy’s fateful visit to Texas in November of 1963 began as a happy occasion. The president brought his star power to the state to rally his own supporters and to mend fences where possible with the Democrats who still regarded him with skepticism. Brooks campaigned hard for the Kennedy ticket in his own district, and rode along as part of the motorcade that traveled through Dallas on the morning of November 23 on the way to the Dallas Trade Mart. He traveled to Parkland Hospital with the motorcade and was aware of the severity of the president's injuries before the official announcement was made of Kennedy's death. And he was on Air Force One as Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the thirty-sixth president of the United States. Brooks was among those who encouraged Johnson to take the oath before leaving Dallas.

Jack Brooks campaigning at the gate of the Gulf Refinery in Port Arthur for the Kennedy/Johnson ticket

Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as president aboard Air Force One after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, November 22, 1963. Standing next to President Johnson is former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (right) and new First Lady Lady Bird Johnson (left). Jack Brooks stands behind Mrs. Kennedy. President Johnson was sworn in by District Judge Sarah T. Hughes (left foreground). Photo by Cecil Stoughton. camh-dob-002499

Even as the nation reeled, Johnson moved quickly to expand and hammer through the progressive legislation that the Kennedy administration had begun. Johnson also brought an enormously ambitious legislative agenda of his own, including federal money for infrastructure, education, and anti-poverty measures. But he resolved that civil rights legislation would be his first legislative priority, extending the conversations that the Kennedy administration had begun with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights movement leaders.

Passage of the Civil Rights Act would be an uphill battle. Brooks, with a decade of tenure in Congress and a track record of winning improbable legislative victories, became a close ally and valued advisor to President Johnson, frequently spending evenings at the White House discussing policy and strategy. Brooks’s advice proved instrumental in getting H.R. 7152 out of the Rules Committee. The bill passed the House and similarly clever legislative strategizing steered it clear of pitfalls in the Senate. A slightly altered version of the bill overcame a last-ditch Senate filibuster by Robert Byrd and was signed into law by Johnson on July 2, 1964. In that fall’s presidential race, Johnson cruised to one of the most lopsided electoral routs in modern American history, beating Barry Goldwater by a popular vote margin of 63 percent to 36 percent. In that moment, it seemed for all the world like the United States had taken a leadership role in promoting civil rights.

From 1964 though 1968, Brooks was part of a liberal House majority, which passed bills on one progressive priority after another, from immigration to education, health care to conservation and housing. But even as high-profile legislation like the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act captured headlines, Brooks worked quietly and diligently to expand the reach of his own Government Activities Subcommittee. The “Brooks Committee,” as it came to be known, became the congressman’s vehicle for pursuing his abiding interest in government efficiency. The Brooks Committee released reports on a wide variety of topics, from improving the efficiency of lightbulbs to the acquisition of standardized software, coding languages, and equipment to help transition federal operations to what was then called Automatic Data Processing. Brooks used the purchasing power of the federal government to force lightbulb manufacturers to improve their products without raising costs. In 1962, the Brooks Committee had begun hearings to lay the groundwork for legislation that would create standards governing the acquisition of all federal information technology. Brooks then crafted the legislation that would make those standards a reality. With his tireless backing, the Automatic Data Processing Act became law amid a spate of other legislation in 1965. Brooks was on hand to celebrate Johnson’s signing of the bill over lunch at the “Texas White House” on Johnson’s ranch outside Austin.

Nixon Era and Watergate

President Johnson declined to run for another term in 1968, and Republican candidate and former vice president Richard Nixon won the election to succeed him. From that point, it seemed, Nixon and Brooks were destined to collide. Nixon took a decidedly mercenary approach to both politics and government, and his ascension to the world’s most powerful office did nothing to slow him down. Brooks, meanwhile, had honed both his focus on good governance—and his skill at enforcing it—to a razor’s edge over nearly thirty years in Congress. He understood, as perhaps no other elected official did, the processes by which the US government contracted material and services on behalf of taxpayers.

So when Nixon’s “plumbers” got caught breaking into Democratic National Headquarters in mid-1972, Brooks began to pay closer attention to the cost sheet of the Nixon White House. He noticed something strange: unlike in previous administrations, there were no guidelines for internal spending under Nixon, and the expenses that did appear were exorbitant. Two of Nixon’s expenditures seemed particularly problematic: his extensive improvements to his private homes in San Clemente and Key Biscayne. Further investigation revealed that Nixon had spent $17 million of public money on his private residences. Brooks’s response was to craft a law to more transparently track Secret Service and other expenses incurred. (It would become law in 1975.) Brooks launched an extensive investigation of spending on Nixon’s private homes through his Government Activities Subcommittee.

In the fall of 1973, the walls began to collapse around Nixon and his associates. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned, facing charges of corruption. A special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, began pressing the White House to release potentially incriminating tapes made in the Oval Office during the planning for the Watergate break-in. The evening of Saturday, October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox, prompting Richardson to resign. Nixon immediately ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox, and Ruckelshaus resigned as well. Moving down the organization chart, Nixon then ordered Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire the special prosecutor, which he did.

The public response to Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” was swift and furious. Members of Congress began calling for impeachment, the articles of which would be drawn up by the House Judiciary Committee. Chaired by Peter Rodino, a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, the Judiciary Committee initially approached the question of impeachment with delicacy and even reluctance. Brooks himself felt no such compunctions and thus grew deeply impatient with Rodino’s process-bound and timid approach, which Brooks felt risked letting a criminal president off the hook. With the judiciary hearings underway, Brooks assembled a staff to draft articles of impeachment himself, three of which were eventually passed out of the Judiciary Committee. With impeachment increasingly likely, Nixon resigned. He later referred to Brooks as “the executioner.”

Man of the House

From the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, Brooks continued to add to his accomplishments and influence as a legislator. He played a crucial role in helping President Jimmy Carter establish the federal Department of Education. His work in support of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 was, to Brooks, a natural extension of his efforts on the ADP a decade and a half earlier. The goal, as always, was to get the federal government to run more efficiently, and the opponents, as always, were the bureaucracies that preferred to keep things as they were. Allies and opponents regarded him with respect, fear, and more than a little curiosity. Brooks was a strong and loyal Democrat but remained as likely to fight his allies as his opponents over matters he considered important.

Brooks mastered the House and approached his highest personal goal of becoming the chair of the Judiciary Committee, a position of enormous influence. But both inside his district and across the country, the political ground was shifting as conservatives coalesced around Ronald Reagan, the New Right, and a growing skepticism of liberal approaches to addressing social problems like poverty, racism, and crime.

As president, Reagan was known for his hands-off approach and his preference for letting his aides and proxies shape the policy coming out of the executive branch. The National Security Council, led by Admiral John Poindexter and his aide, Colonel Oliver North, took advantage of the vacuum to pursue the administration’s larger foreign policy goals by illegal means. Beginning in 1981, under Poindexter’s leadership, the Reagan administration secretly sold arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages in Lebanon. It then laundered the proceeds of those arms sales to supply the “Contras” in Nicaragua in their counter-revolutionary war against the leftwing Sandinista government. When the Sandinistas shot down a plane over Nicaraguan airspace in 1986, they were shocked by their successful capture of an active-duty US Marine, who admitted to transporting weapons to the Contras.

Once again, a presidential administration had done something blatantly illegal and gotten caught. Once again, it appeared to indicate a much larger pattern of administration malfeasance. And once again, as one of the most powerful members of the House Judiciary Committee, Brooks was pulled into a sharp battle over presidential accountability and the limits of executive power in the US government.

The Iran-Contra hearings aired on C-SPAN and remain among that network’s most-watched live events. Brooks distinguished himself by his characteristically sharp questioning of witnesses, most notably Oliver North, whom he pressed for information on other potentially related matters including Rex 84, a plan for a classified drill for detaining large numbers of US citizens as potential security threats.[3] Although both Poindexter and North faced consequences for their actions, the Iran-Contra investigation did not reach Reagan himself, and Brooks later professed disappointment that the investigation never forced acknowledgment of wrongdoing from either President Reagan or Vice President George H. W. Bush.[4]

Brooks spent much of the 1980s seeking to hold the line against wasteful spending and sponsoring a raft of legislation to streamline and standardize federal procurement practices in the midst of a massive ramp-up of federal spending on administration priorities like defense. He continued his long service and dedication to the peaceful mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, whose funding he rescued from the chopping block on several occasions. His close friend and fellow Texas Democrat Jim Wright ascended to the position of House Speaker in 1987, and Brooks realized his own highest ambition not long afterward, becoming the chair of the House Judiciary Committee in 1989.

Speaker Wright took control of Congress at a time of increasing polarization in Congress, led by conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich. In 1989, Gingrich alleged that Wright had used congressional staff to help compile a book the Speaker had authored and that Wright had made deals with trade unions about purchasing his book in lieu of speaking fees. The investigation that ensued selectively released potentially damaging information against the Speaker devoid of context. In an effort to dispel the acrimony that had been introduced into Congress, Wright stepped down as Speaker and ultimately resigned from Congress a few months later. Brooks was furious about Gingrich's tactics, saying "he wants to destroy Congress." [5]

Latter Days

When he came to office in 1992, President Bill Clinton identified crime as one of his top policy priorities. Over the previous three decades, both parties had articulated theories about the underlying drivers of violent crime, and both had outlined approaches to lowering it. Clinton hoped that his approach, which combined ideas from across the ideological spectrum into one massive bill, would appeal to enough moderates in both parties to pass.

As Judiciary chair, Brooks was a natural point person to work alongside Senator Joe Biden in shepherding Clinton’s crime bill through the legislative process. Brooks leveraged his influence and know-how once again to get the bill out of subcommittee and to orchestrate House passage of the larger bill in separate parts. The omnibus package included a so-called “assault weapons ban,” which outlawed the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic rifles with large capacity magazines of the type frequently used in mass shootings. Brooks’s misgivings about this measure notwithstanding, he helped Clinton pass the massive bill into law.

Although pleased to work with Republicans on the crime bill and other measures, Gingrich’s attack against Wright had incensed Brooks, who had grave concerns about the personal political attacks and negative campaigning that Gingrich and the Republicans espoused. Although never afraid of conflict, Brooks believed that such bad-faith, scorched-earth tactics amounted to an abuse of power and would permanently damage the functioning of Congress. The fact that Wright was a close friend made the enmity personal.

Like most Democrats from the American South, Brooks was now operating in an altered political environment—more conservative and less forgiving. Brooks’s fears about the political consequences of the assault weapons ban came to fruition in his own district during the 1994 midterms, when the National Rifle Association supported his opponent, Steve Stockman, to the tune of $30,000.[6] Despite Brooks’s long record of service to his districts, in that year, the NRA’s backing was enough to push Stockman to victory. The same result repeated itself across the country. All told, the Democratic Party lost fifty-four House seats in the 1994 election, enough to lose their four-decades old House majority and allow Gingrich to ascend to the Speakership.

It was not the ending that Brooks had envisioned for himself, but after forty-two years in the House, he was able to view his loss with a certain philosophical perspective. And while it burned him that he had lost his own seat to a Gingrich acolyte, he did have the satisfaction of seeing Stockman ousted in the very next election cycle. (Stockman would later be convicted and sentenced to prison for stealing his own campaign donations for personal use.) In the years since, Brooks’s district has remained a Democratic stronghold.

Looking Back

Two decades into the twenty-first century, there is little dispute that American politics and government feel, look, and function differently than they did when politicians like Jack Brooks roamed the Capitol corridors. There are almost as many theories as to the origins of these changes as there are observers. Some ascribe the difference to a changing media environment, which seeks to cover politics like a sporting event. Others point to the influence of large donors. Others still blame the changes in the regular order that once allowed all members to propose amendments to legislation.

Brooks had his own notions about what had gone wrong, and most of them traced back to his Congressional bête noire, Newt Gingrich. Of course, Brooks knew that no single man was responsible for all the transformation that he deplored in the House during his later years in that body. But to Brooks, Gingrich embodied those unwelcome changes. In the tradition of his mentor Sam Rayburn, Brooks had long viewed politics as the art of the possible, and negotiation as a means of measuring that possibility. Gingrich and the New Right, he felt, seemed less interested in the art of the possible than the art of political warfare. It was a philosophy Brooks considered ill-suited to the business of the House—the people’s business.

Over the course of his life, Jack Brooks built a rich legacy of service to his country, most of which was not captured in the headlines. It is written in the laws that still extend the promise of equal citizenship and access to the ballot box to all Americans, regardless of race. It is written in the careful rulemaking that still controls the federal government’s procurement and acquisition processes, in the billions of dollars his bills saved the country, and in the legacy IT systems that still undergird much of the federal government’s functionality. It is written in the agencies, institutions, and organizations that Brooks championed over his long career in public service, from Lamar University to NASA. It is written in countless laws passed and in the personal and professional relationships that made those laws possible. And it was written in family. When Jack Brooks died in 2012 at age eighty-nine, he was survived by his loving wife, Charlotte, (who passed away less than two years later), along with their children and grandchildren. Finally, it is written in his example of tireless service to country, first as a Marine, then a state representative, and finally as a proud, long-serving member of Congress.

Jack Brooks campaign sign, undated

Jack Brooks campaign sign, undated. camh-dob-002589

Written by Brooks Digital Legacy Project Designer Eric Busch, PhD.

[1] Brendan McNulty and Tim McNulty, The Meanest Man in Congress: Jack Brooks and the Making of an American Century (Montgomery: NewSouth Books, 2019).

[2] McNulty and McNulty.

[3] “User Clip: North Being Questioned on REX 84 | C-SPAN.Org,” accessed August 29, 2021, https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4797423/user-clip-north-questioned-rex-84.

[4] McNulty and McNulty, 391.

[5] McNulty and McNulty, 435.

[6] McNulty and McNulty, 491.

Banner image: Members of Congress, including Jack Brooks (center), after an address from President George H. W. Bush, January 1989. camh-dob-002474