Southeast Texas politico posthumously honored in Washington

Southeast Texas politico posthumously honored in Washington

In Southeast Texas, “Our man Jack” was known as a devout family man and people’s politician whose name is so revered we’ve used it to adorn our federal courthouse as well as the Southeast Texas airport, but the late Congressman Jack Brooks is remembered with honor in other parts of the country as well.

As one of the longest serving and most out-spoken Congressmen ever to have graced Capitol Hill, it’s no surprise that those who still walk the halls haven’t forgotten the Lone Star legislator. Now, future generations will be reminded of his impact on the country, too, as the Southeast Texas powerhouse will forever be remembered at the U.S. building where he worked for four decades after a bi-partisan group of current representatives memorialized him by planting a tree in his honor in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

“So many of us called Jack Brooks a friend,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said during the dedication ceremony attended by friends, family, and former colleagues including Reps. Gene Green and Randy Weber of Texas, and former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson.

Calling Brooks “a patriot of immense principal and courage,” Pelosi fondly remembered the man she said welcomed her into the fray when she was just getting her feet wet in Washington.

“He had no fear of public opinions or crossing party lines to pursue the public good,” she recalled. Pelosi went on to credit Brooks as being an integral part of writing into law bills designed to deter crime and violence as well as secure civil rights for all.

“Jack was a man of action,” she summed up – like he would want, she joked. He was a man of few words, after all, seeming to always “get the job done in 25 words or less.”

“He never apologized or backed down from his beliefs that all are created equal,” Pelosi said. “He was a master legislator … who possessed charm, intellect and bare knuckles politics – more often than not, with cigar in hand.” Brooks, she said, was the kind of leader referred to in Ecclesiastes — good and honorable men, of whom, even after their death, “the congregation will continue to sing their praise.”

Brooks’ daughter, Kate Brooks Carroll, said it was truly a “unique honor” to be there in the hot sun as an arbor memoriam was erected to honor her father, who passed away in a Beaumont hospital on Dec. 4, 2012, just shy of his 90th birthday.

Despite his 42 years as an elected Congressman, Carroll said, Brooks never forgot his Texas roots and continued to be a hard worker and downhome to the core.

“He was a workhorse, not a show horse,” Carroll said.

“He knew everybody’s name,” she added. If they met him once, they knew him forever. “But not just their name, he knew their spouse, their kids …”

Carroll smiled and accepted the accolades bestowed her father for his work in setting the laws of the nation and his instrumentality to the Civil Rights Bill – but she also wanted to expand on the quality of life enhancements he brought to Southeast Texas. Brooks’ handiwork can be seen in creation of the Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Lamar University’s progression to becoming a four-year institution, the region’s relationship with NASA, and the construction of the Port Arthur levee system. That, Carroll said, “is what keeps his name alive.”

Washington D.C.’s ode to the late Brooks was planted across Independence Avenue from a House office building named for Sam Rayburn. The tree selected was a bur oak, described by the Arbor Day Foundation as “a mighty sight to behold.” The bur oak is known for its massive size, reaching up to 80 feet in height at maturity, and a lifespan of about 300 years.