Posts Tagged ‘Clarence Thomas’
On April 4, 1968, the death of Martin Luther King Jr. shocked the nation. A few days later, Jesuit Father John E. Brooks, 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 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, which follows the 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. In a recent interview, Fr. Brooks sat down with National Catholic Reporter to talk about the experiences that Fraternity was based on.
Jesuit Father John Brooks paused, his fork temporarily suspended above his apple crumble. The 88-year-old Holy Cross president emeritus, his West Roxbury accent clear and direct, told the National Catholic Reporter during lunch in the Hogan Campus Center, “Clarence Thomas called this morning — it was more of a joke really.” The U.S. Supreme Court justice, a former Holy Cross student of Brooks’, “wanted to know did I really have a tear in my eye.” Thomas was referring to the concluding line in an excerpt from Diane Brady’s book Fraternity, reprinted in the fall 2011 Holy Cross Magazine, that ran, “One of the students saw Fr. Brooks standing to the side, slipping out quietly with tears in his eyes.”
Joked Thomas, on the phone to Brooks, “You never shed a tear.”
Brooks hasn’t had much time for tears. Toughness was required when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination impelled then theology professor Brooks into an East Coast recruitment drive for African-American students. Regardless of how historically salutary his decision, in the short term it brought neither tranquility nor harmony to the college.
To accomplish even the first steps, Brooks needed the support of the somewhat besieged Holy Cross president, Jesuit Fr. Raymond J. Swords. Both men engaged in a great deal of persuasive argument to eventually quell consternation among the trustees, uproar from the alumni, divisions among the faculty, and doubt, dismay and/or anger among the white students. It certainly didn’t help with the endowment drive. Not least, there was the matter of $80,000 in scholarships Brooks had promised to those he recruited.