Archbishop L. J. Guillory REMEMBERS His Spiritual Mentor The Hon. Bishop H. H. Brookins
H. H. Brookins, Influential A.M.E. Bishop~
The Rev. H. H. Brookins, a retired bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church whose role as a civil rights leader and a political kingmaker died on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 86 when he Passed in May 2012.
Los Angeles Times
H. H. Brookins, right, with Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles in 1973. Bishop Brookins helped start Mr. Bradley’s career.
Bishop Brookins marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the South; helped start the political career of Tom Bradley, a five-term Los Angeles mayor; was a principal strategist in the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign; and in 1990 prayed with Mayor Marion Barry of Washington when Mr. Barry was convicted of drug possession.
As a young minister and then a bishop in Los Angeles, Bishop Brookins helped start and was president of the United Civil Rights Council, an umbrella organization of 75 groups, which helped the black community recover from the Watts riots in 1965. Starting with a building fund of $8, he built a multimillion-dollar church and called it a cathedral. It grew to 19,500 members.
He did it all with such style that he came to be called the Hollywood bishop. He rallied stars like Bob Hope and politicians like Robert F. Kennedy to his causes, and organized the first interfaith service at the Hollywood Bowl. His spirited preaching, from whispering in the valleys to roaring from the mountaintops, was renowned.
He drove a Mercedes-Benz and made the best-dressed lists of Ebony and Jet magazines. He smoked, drank and told off-color stories. Bishop Brookins had a knack for getting to the point in a pithy way. “Everyone has a right to be equal, even in mediocrity,” he told The Los Angeles Times.
He called Mr. Jackson’s 1984 presidential bid “the best thing since ice cream.”
But allegations of financial mismanagement and fraud dogged him in Los Angeles, and later in subsequent postings in Arkansas and Washington. The common accusation was that church funds had ended up in his personal accounts.
In 1993, 25 local ministers and lay leaders in the Washington area petitioned the Council of Bishops to demote him, saying he had taken out mortgages on church property for personal use. Though he denied having done so, he was reassigned to head the denomination’s office of ecumenical and urban affairs, a job often given to bishops under fire or in ill health.
In 2000, delegates to the church’s national convention put a new bishop in his seat in Washington but allowed him to serve on an at-large basis for four more years.
Bishop Brookins retired in 2004 after being bishop in five districts and serving as president of his church.
Hamel Hartford Brookins was born in Yazoo City, Miss., on June 8, 1925, the seventh of 10 children of sharecroppers. For a while he attended Campbell College (now closed) in Jackson, Miss., where he became pastor of his first church.
“It had about 18 members,” said Otis Jackson, who sang with Bishop Brookins in a sextet called Brookins and the Hungry Five. “The collection wouldn’t be but $2 or $3, but he would go down there and preach his heart out, just as if he were preaching to 300 or 400 people.”
He earned bachelor’s degrees from Wilberforce University and the nearby Payne Theological Seminary, both of them historically black institutions in Ohio, and by 1954 was a minister in Wichita, Kan. He was elected the first black president of the 200-member interracial ministerial council there, and led meetings to unite religious and civic leaders following the Supreme Court’s order to desegregate the Topeka, Kan., public schools.
He was transferred to Los Angeles in 1959 and by the time of the Watts riots in 1965 was one of the most visible black leaders in the city. He organized Dr. King’s first Los Angeles appearance, which drew 60,000 people. He helped Mr. Bradley win election to the City Council in 1963 and as mayor in 1973.
In 1972, Mr. Brookins was elected bishop and sent to Rhodesia, where he actively supported forces fighting the white-minority government. He was kicked out of the country, now known as Zimbabwe. In the 1980s, while based in Arkansas, he befriended Bill Clinton, the governor at the time.
“I’ve seen it all,” he once said, “and I’ve been part of 80 percent of it.”
Bishop Brookins’s first two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the Rev. Rosalynn Kyle Brookins; two sons, Sir-Wellington Hartford Brookins and Steven Hartford Brookins; and a daughter, the Rev. Francine A. Brookins.