Jack Brooks: Unpredictable but influential Democrat

 

Jack Brooks was a Congressman who served 42 years in the US House of Representatives. An unpredictable but influential Texas Democrat, he who was one of the few politicians who cast fear in President Lyndon Johnson.

First elected to Congress from a south-eastern Texas district in 1952, Brooks became a protégé of two fellow Texans, Johnson – then a powerful senator – and Sam Rayburn, the long-time Democratic leader and one-time speaker of the House. Brooks became a committee leader in Congress, first of the House Committee on Government Operations and later of the Judiciary Committee, and was so effective behind the scenes that one of Johnson’s former aides said in 1977 that Brooks was “one of the few men LBJ was ever afraid of.”

On 22 November 1963 Brooks was with Johnson in the motorcade in Dallas when President Kennedy was assassinated. In the famous photograph taken aboard Air Force One when Johnson took the presidential oath of office, Brooks is standing directly behind the grieving first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Brooks helped write the articles of impeachment against President Nixon in 1974 in the wake of Watergate and was referred to by Nixon as “the executioner”. In the 1980s he served on the House-Senate Iran-Contra committee investigating unauthorised arms-dealing during the Reagan administration.

Brooks was an old-style politician who favoured assertive talk, bold legislative action and a smouldering cigar clamped between his teeth. He was called “the last of his breed” long before he lost a bid for re-election in 1994. “Jack Brooks was a complete contrarian, a mass of contradictions,” Ross K Baker, a congressional historian, said. “He was a civil rights advocate and strongly pro-gun. He was fiercely combative, but he was someone who could easily cross party lines.”

Brooks began defying expectations early in his career by refusing to sign the 1956 Southern Manifesto, a pact among Southern congressmen to support segregation. He was one of only 11 congressmen from the South to vote for the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was a strong advocate of Nasa, whose Johnson Space Center in Houston was for a time in his District. But as chairman of the Government Operations Committee from 1975 to 1988 he exposed billions of dollars in government waste. He said the Navy was spending $660 on ashtrays and the State Department had ordered $2 million worth of silverware.

“Brooks finagles and manipulates behind the scenes in the most adroit fashion,” the former House speaker Jim Wright said in 1994. “He knows how to operate, and he will not settle for mediocrity.” In 1973, Brooks questioned the director of the General Services Administration, Arthur F Sampson, who claimed that $10 million of taxpayer-supported improvements to Nixon’s private homes in California and Florida actually lowered their value. “Oh, really,” Brooks said. “Well, Mr Sampson, I’d like you to come down to my farm and desecrate it a little bit.”

Brooks was born in Louisiana and raised in Beaumont, Texas. He was 13 when his father died and he began to work at odd jobs to help support the family. He graduated in 1943 from the University of Texas at Austin in journalism and graduated from law school at the university in 1949.

During the Second World War he saw combat with the Marine Corps in the Pacific. He was elected to the Texas legislature in 1946. Six years later, he won election to Congress. For seven of his 21 elections, he ran unopposed.

As chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 1994, Brooks had helped pass an anti-crime bill that included a ban on assault weapons. He lost his seat to candidate Steve Stockman during the Republican takeover of Congress, after opponents accused Brooks of advocating gun control.

“I think of myself as someone who tries to be constructive,” Brooks said in 1977, “someone who understands that politics is the art of compromise, that it’s a lot more important to get something done than get into a lot of battles and get a lot of publicity. All you do is make enemies that way, and who wants to have enemies?”

Jack Bascom Brooks, politician: born Crowley, Louisiana 18 December 1922; married Charlotte Collins (two daughters, one son); died Beaumont, Texas 4 December 2012.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album