Brooks honored with Legends Scholarship

Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 24, 2008, 5:35am

Former Congressman Jack Brooks was honored with a Legends Scholarship in his name at Lamar University.

Longtime legislator Jack Brooks has been honored with a Lamar University scholarship in his name.

Lamar University and the Beaumont Foundation of America announced the 12th in a series of Southeast Texas Legends Scholarships, this one honoring Jack Brooks, who represented Southeast Texas in Congress for more than 40 years.

The $100,000 endowed scholarship will assist underserved Lamar University students, said Lamar President James Simmons at a ceremony and news conference April 21 in the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library.

Brooks grew up in Beaumont and graduated from Lamar in 1941 when it was a junior college. During his senior year of high school and his two years at Lamar, he worked 54 hours a week at the Beaumont Enterprise.

After completing a bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Texas and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific during World War II, Brooks returned to Beaumont and ran for a seat in the Texas House.

At 23, he beat two opponents without a runoff with campaign help from friends from Beaumont High School. In the Texas House, Brooks passed legislation to turn Lamar into a four-year, state-supported senior college.

Brooks graduated from law school at UT while serving in the Legislature. In 1952 at age 29, he won his first term in Congress and was re-elected every two years until 1994.

As U.S. representative for Southeast Texas, Brooks built friendships with powerful Texas leaders, including House Speaker Sam Rayburn and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Brooks chaired the Government Operations Committee and the Judiciary Committee and led the Texas delegation for many years. He helped write the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the 1990s, he passed legislation broadening the scope of civil rights protections to include women of all races and ethnicities.

His work in Congress led to critical improvements to Southeast Texas waterways, including the creation of the Port of Beaumont Navigation District and of the Sam Rayburn Dam and Reservoir, which he had named for his friend and mentor.

Brooks said it was gracious of the Beaumont Foundation to recognize him as a legend. "It's flattering they think I was a legend for doing good things, not being Billy the Kid," he said in a press release from the university.

The Legends scholarship is not Brooks' first honor at Lamar. A statue of Brooks clutching one of his signature cigars is a fixture on the campus quadrangle. The Jack Brooks Chair in Government and Public Service was established in the political science department in 1997. Other Lamar University scholarships also bear his name. Brooks said he was glad to have another avenue to assist students.

"The sky's the limit when you get out of college," Brooks said. "Many Lamar graduates do very, very well, and all of them benefit from their education."

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