Brooks was born in Louisiana on September 12, 1909 to a family of fifteen children, and joined the US Army in 1940. During World War II he was deployed to Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines. During his military service, he worked mainly as a chef for white officers.
Although he did not work on the front lines, he had two near-death experiences during the war. Once when the plane he was on ran out of fuel over the ocean, and another time a Japanese sniper shot an American soldier several feet away from him.
Brooks did not qualify for a free college education in 1945 because the scholarship awarded to veterans was not for black former soldiers. After the war, he spoke about his experience with the racist army at the time. He said he felt better treated in Australia than his “white colleagues”.
US President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter that he was honored to meet Brooks last year. “He was truly the best in America, and I will pray for his closest relatives,” the president said.
“Creator. Award-winning problem solver. Music evangelist. Incurable introvert.”