Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J.
On April 4, 1968, the death of Martin Luther King Jr. shocked the nation. A few days later, the Boston-born priest Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., then a professor of theology at the College of the Holy Cross who shared Dr. King’s dream of an integrated society, drove up and down the East Coast searching for African American high school recruits, young men he felt had the potential to succeed if given an opportunity.
Among the 20 students he had a hand in recruiting that year were Clarence Thomas ‘71, the future Supreme Court justice; Edward P. Jones ‘72, who would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature; Theodore Wells ‘72, who would become one of the nation’s most successful defense attorneys; Stanley Grayson ‘72, future New York City deputy mayor who would break the color bar on Wall Street; and Eddie Jenkins ‘72, who would play for the Miami Dolphins during their 1972 perfect season.
Now, the stories of their time at Holy Cross are being told in a new book, Fraternity (Spiegel & Grau, Jan. 3, 2012), by Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Diane Brady, who follows the five men through their college years, reporting on how their time at Holy Cross and their relationships with Fr. Brooks helped shape who they are today.
Not only did Fr. Brooks, who went on to become the longest-serving president of Holy Cross, convince many of the young men to attend the school, he also pushed to get the money for full scholarships to support them, and then mentored, defended, coached, and befriended them through their often challenging college years.
Though more than 43 years have passed since Fr. Brooks (now president emeritus at Holy Cross and still teaching at the age of 88) welcomed this group of African American students to campus, Fraternity depicts struggles with minority recruitment, access, and retention that are strikingly similar to today’s challenges.
Brady first wrote about this time in Holy Cross history in a 2007 article for BusinessWeek, and has worked since then to expand the story into a book, which is already earning praise. Publisher’s Weekly called Fraternity “a cogent account that ripples more broadly and addresses issues that remain,” and author Wes Moore says it “brilliantly shows how the attention and concern of one man not only changed the course of these individual lives, but the course of history.”
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews ’67 says “Holy Cross, Black Power and the Sixties could have been an unholy mix. A bold Jesuit priest made it a holy one. The story of Father John Brooks, Clarence Thomas, Ted Wells, and the others rings with power, pride, and human feeling. Fraternity and the saga it retells adds honor to my college.” And John Hope Bryant, author and founder and CEO of Operation HOPE, says “Fraternityis about the power of hope, the power of presence in the lives of others, the power of mentorship, role modeling, and actionable belief. And this is why I see this book as the best modern-day example of the continued power of Dr. King’s Dream.”
Chapter nine of Fraternity—the story of a crisis that rocked the campus, and nearly derailed the lives of all the men—has been exclusively excerpted in the Fall 2011 issue of Holy Cross Magazine, and is accompanied by a discussion with College leadership about diversity at Holy Cross today.
Fraternity will be on sale beginning Jan. 3, 2012. To purchase a copy, visit any of the following retailers:
Visit the special exhibit of photographs, news coverage, and other holdings from Holy Cross Archives about the years covered in Fraternity. Now on display in Dinand Library’s main reading room. Visit the library website for hours.