Born in Louisiana to sharecroppers, Brooks enlisted in the army in 1940 where he served in the predominantly Black 91st Engineer Battalion. The deceased veteran served in that battalion as a result of the segregation practices that were imposed by the military during that period.
The president and CEO of the National WWII Museum, Stephen J. Watson, said Brooks was a man who possessed great faith and a “gentle spirit.”
“As the nation’s oldest known living veteran, he proudly served our country during World War II, and returned home to serve his community and church,” Watson said. “His kindness, smile and sense of humor connected him to generations of people who loved and admired him.”
In a statement on Twitter, the governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, also said he was “thankful” he had the opportunity to meet Brooks and “learn from his service.”
After completing his obligatory year of service in the army in 1941, Brooks returned to New Orleans following his discharge. He, however, shortly rejoined the army in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack, NBC News reported.
During his service, Brooks was deployed to Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. But at the time of his return home after the end of his service, Jim Crow laws still persisted. The museum’s biography said the deceased veteran seldomly spoke to his colleague soldiers about the racism that persisted as he said it would upset him.
“I was treated so much better in Australia than I was by my own white people,” Brooks was said to have once revealed. “I wondered about that.”
Brooks later worked as a forklift operator during his civilian life. He retired in the 1970s. Over the last seven years, the National WWII Museum held parties to celebrate Brooks’ birthday. The parties had to be turned into drive-by events at his home in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
The deceased veteran is survived by five children, 13 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren.