90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, July 5, 2012

Remembering Father John Brooks

Father John Brooks. (Courtesy College of the Holy Cross)

BY: ALEX ASHLOCK

A future Supreme Court justice, a future Pulitzer Prize winner, a future Super Bowl champion — They were among a handful of young African American men recruited to the almost totally white Jesuit college Holy Cross in the 1960s.

They were recruited by a young white priest named John E. Brooks. He was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of an integrated society and after King was assassinated in 1968 he drove up and down the east coast looking for the students who could help make that dream come true, at least on the campus he loved so much.

Father Brooks died on July 2 at the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester of complications from lymphoma. He was 88.

Among the first group of black students he brought to the Holy Cross campus were Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Edward P. Jones, who won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, and Eddie Jenkins, who played on the undefeated Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins in 1972 and went on to work in state government in Massachusetts.

Another recruit was a star basketball player from Detroit named Stan Grayson. He later became New York City’s Finance Commissioner. “The thing that I most appreciated about [Father Brooks] was not just his interest in me as an athlete, he was always concerned about you as a person,” Grayson told Here & Now‘s Robin Young earlier this year. “He was the kind of guy who taught many of us how to think, by asking probing questions and constantly reminding us when we needed to be reminded why we were in college and that was to get an education.”

Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Diane Brady tells the story of Father Brooks’ integration effort in her book “Fraternity.”

“He was a very strong personality,” she said. “And it was striking that a lot of the people I talked to who knew him, that was very clear, that what John Brooks wanted John Brooks went and got.”

Father Brooks was a Holy Cross graduate. He was the president of the school for more than two decades and he never stopped teaching there. A funeral mass is scheduled for July 9, followed by burial on the Holy Cross campus.

This interview originally broadcast Janary 16, 2012.

Guests:

  • Stan Grayson, Holy Cross graduate
  • Diane Brady, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporter

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

April 23 10 Comments

Iconic Images From Rock And Roll Photographer Henry Diltz

Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the Doors, the Eagles, all became his friends and subjects.

April 23 22 Comments

Police Shooting Of Tamir Rice Still An Open Wound In Cleveland

Five months after the 12-year-old was shot, Peter O'Dowd visits the neighborhood and speaks with Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice.

April 22 6 Comments

Saving Food Scraps From The Trash To Make Better Meals

Are you throwing away your broccoli stems and peach pits? Food writer and cookbook author Eugenia Bone says don't.

April 21 Comment

Photographing Armenian Lives Around the World

Photojournalist Scout Tufankjian started the Armenian Diaspora Project to explore what it means to be Armenian.