B. J. Brooks
|B. J. Brooks|
|Born||November 26, 1935|
|Died||February 15, 1998|
|Parents||John B. Brooks Beatrice Brooks|
|Children||Annie Brooks (Swain)
Lillian Denise Brooks Johnnie Ray Brooks Billie Joe Brooks Jr. Janice Brooks (DeSoto)
The Reverend Billie Joe (B. J.) Brooks, Sr. (1935-1998) was a Pensacola civil rights leader, two-time president of the NAACP Pensacola branch, and pastor of the [[Greater Mount Lily Baptist Church from March 1968 until his passing. He also owned Brooks Gulf Service Station on the SE corner of Fairfield and Davis Highway.
In December 1974, when black motorist Wendel Blackwell was shot and killed by an Escambia County Sheriff's Deputy, Brooks urged Escambia County Sheriff Royal Untreiner to suspend the deputy pending a full investigation. When Untreiner refused, Brooks led a series of demonstrations early the next year where hundreds gathered for protesting, along with local SCLC leaders H. K. Matthews and Otha Leverette, that culminated in a February 24 confrontation in which 47 people were arrested for unlawful assembly, including the three men. From first hands accounts from his daughter, who was 12 at the time whom was also present during the protest the crowd was chanting 2-4-6-8 Who can we incarcerate; due to the poor biased decisions of multiple police officers with the Pensacola Police Department. The officers said the chant was 2-4-6-8 who can we assassinate. Brooks and Matthews were later charged with additional counts of felony extortion and convicted on June 10, 1975. Brooks took blow after blow with his head held high in the name of justice even having crosses burned in his front yard while his children slept feet away. As soon as Brooks was arrested the State of Florida released him from his job. However, Brooks was not dismayed he took his case all the way to the Supreme Court and the conviction was later overturned because the state could not provide any evidence. He was restored back to work with full benefits and back pay awarded.
In 1996, Brooks accused deputies with the Escambia County Sheriff's Office of using excess force in killing a 15-year-old boy who pointed an empty shotgun at two undercover officers posing as pizza-delivery men.
In 1997, he helped derail a proposal to rename Bayfront Parkway and Main Street after Martin Luther King, feeling the street's proximity to the Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant would be undignified to Dr. King's legacy. Instead Brooks pushed to rename A Street, which runs through a predominantly black neighborhood, after the slain civil rights leader, but failed to gain sufficient support. (A portion of Alcaniz Street was eventually renamed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.) Also in 1997, Brooks supported two black City of Pensacola Parks & Recreation workers who were fired after an altercation with white Pensacola Police Officers outside a community center.
Brooks passed away on February 15, 1998, at the age of 62 from cancer after working tirelessly for his people, the city of Pensacola and his church family. Reverend Michael Johnson once said of him, "He had a burning desire to help people. Like most people that take on that kind of leadership, even if it meant sometimes sacrificing, he would do it."
His legacy will live forever the local NAACP chapter has established a scholarship in his honor.
- Obituary. Palm Beach Post, February 19, 1998.