PHOENIX (AP) — The Rev. George Brooks Sr., a longtime civil rights activist in Phoenix who founded a church, served in the state Legislature and lead the Maricopa County NAACP chapter in the 1960s, has died.
Brooks died Wednesday after an extended illness, said his son, George Brooks Jr. He was 81.
Brooks took the helm of the county NAACP chapter in 1961 and fought for the rights of blacks who struggled to get jobs, were barred from Phoenix hotels and could only find a handful of places to buy a meal in the city.
He also served a term as a legislator in 1991-1992 after a scandal led to the convictions of seven lawmakers for bribery and other crimes and was a longtime member of the Roosevelt Elementary School District board.
Brooks founded Southminster Presbyterian Church, helped bring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Phoenix in the 1960s and championed the first Meals on Wheels and Head Start programs in south Phoenix.
"Reverend Brooks … was the person that makes me appreciate that while sticks and stones can break your bones, words can kill," said Cody Williams, a former member of the Phoenix City Council.
Brooks was an Election Day fixture in south Phoenix's black neighborhoods, driving the streets in his pickup and calling out residents by name over a loudspeaker, urging them to go to the polls.
"His energy was unbelievable," said Matthew Whitaker, a civil-rights historian at Arizona State University.
Whitaker said Brooks was eager to talk about the struggle for equality and wanted that knowledge to be passed on for generations so it wouldn't "be lost on anyone."
In his application for appointment to the Legislature, Brooks was blunt — and not a bit modest.
"I perceive myself to be a highly intelligent, forthright, perceptive, articulate, responsible and mature scholar and tactician. I've been told that my style is vigorous and original without being idiosyncratic or uncooperative, that my enthusiasm is infectious and my honesty is strong and unflinching, my sprit is unfailingly high. Whatever I have done, it has been done successfully.
"I have learned that the key to changing conditions . . . lies in the ability to gain the understanding and support of others; that the goal-oriented person is driven by means and consequences. Inherent in leadership is style, pace-setting and strategic planning so that the well being of all might be realized. And finally, I'm told that there is a personal grace in me that responds to the advantage of all that know me."
Brooks Jr. laughed after reading the passage aloud.
"You can see he felt much of himself," he said.
In addition to his son, Brooks is survived by his daughter, Susan Morris; wife, Lula; and several grandchildren. Services are pending.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com