Former Rep. Jack Brooks, a Texas Democrat from the bygone era when his party ruled Lone Star State politics, died Tuesday after a sudden illness, The Associated Press reported. He was 89.
First elected to Congress in 1952, Brooks’ 42 years of service and strong ties to influential Texas politicians, such as legendary Speaker Sam Rayburn and President Lyndon B. Johnson, made him part of some of the most iconic moments in American history.
Brooks rode in President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, and is pictured in a photo aboard Air Force One as Johnson was sworn in to office while Jacqueline Kennedy looked on.
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Brooks played a key role in the impeachment hearings that eventually led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974. Brooks drafted the articles of impeachment that the committee later adopted, leading Nixon to call Brooks his “executioner.”
Brooks was a fiscal conservative but was among the more liberal Southern Democrats on race issues during the 1950s and ’60s.
He refused to sign the Southern Manifesto — the document signed by 97 Democrats and two Republicans that took a stand against integration — and helped author the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As longtime chairman of the House Government Operations Committee — at the time the panel oversaw the establishment of federal departments and agencies — Brooks helped pass the Inspector General Act of 1978, which set up independent offices of inspectors general in government agencies aimed at preventing fraud and waste, an item always high on Brooks’ agenda. He was notorious for tough interrogations of bureaucrats who he thought were wasting taxpayer dollars.
One of his most lasting legacies may be the Brooks Act of 1965, which required competitive bidding for federal computer acquisition. The law is often credited with being a catalyst for boosting government technology.
The Republican triumph in 1994 ended Brooks’ House tenure, just as he was set to become the body’s dean.
Brooks was born in Acadia Parish, La., on Dec. 18, 1922, and moved to Beaumont, Texas, at the age of 5. He attended Lamar Junior College in Beaumont on scholarship before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin, where he received a degree in journalism in 1943. He enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II and served in the Pacific Theater before being discharged in 1946. He remained in the Marine Corps Reserve until his retirement in 1972 at the rank of colonel.
Before serving in the House, Brooks was a two-term member of the Texas Legislature.
Correction: Dec. 6, 5:30 p.m.
An earlier version of this story misstated the position that Brooks held on the Judiciary Committee.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.