Mayors; Black History; Florida
Bobbie Brooks was an African American born to Eston Brooks and Elizabeth French in 1936, West Palm Beach. In 1948, he moved to Riviera Beach City, Florida. Considered one of the faces of black history, Bobbie Brooks overcame racial barriers to become the first black mayor of Riviera Beach in 1975.
Personal Life and Death
Bobbie Brooks was a brilliant person who kept a low profile. He didn’t see race as an impediment to achieving what he wanted. He made friends with many, which made him a lovable person.
Brooks’ professionalism in dealing with different races made him stand out. He had a genuine interest in people and exuded calm at all times, even amidst hostility.
Bobbie married Billie E. Wright in 1964. He was a family man who raised both his own and foster children. He died from lung cancer in 2004, aged 68.
Career and Politics
Bobbie Brooks studied for a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach. He later pursued his master’s degree in public administration at Florida Atlantic University.
He secured a job at Pratt & Whitney as a chemical testing supervisor. Later on, Bobbie was elected to serve in the city council through the Republican Party.
Bobbie’s first election to the council came in 1966, two years following the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He served as the city council’s chairperson for six years and was later elected mayor in 1975. At that time, there were two blacks and three whites working there.
When he assumed the mayor’s office, he hired a black city manager and a black police chief in Florida to beat the status quo. In 1976, Bobbie and his wife were invited for dinner by President Gerald Ford because he stood in Washington.
Role in Shaping America
Brooks played a crucial role in breaking the racial barrier that plagued the fabric that held American society together for many years. His election to become the first black mayor came when the city council’s racial makeup had started to reflect the entire populace. With changing views on race, he was considered the right man for the job.
Leaders from across the board and friends laud Bobbie Brooks for his personable attribute and calmness in resolving conflicts. He made black people proud and made an indelible mark in American society by promoting cohesion among the different races.
Former Mayor Michael Brown believed that Brooks was a pioneer of inclusivity in a country beset by intense oppression. Brooks walked the middle ground during his tenure serving on the council in different capacities. His position was not a welcome idea by both extreme sides of the whites and blacks. As a result, the black community lashed at him for not being black enough.
He campaigned to build fire stations, recreation facilities, roads, and bridges. The building of administrative offices in the city and the development of utility departments were part of his work.
According to his wife, Billie Brooks, he was a development-minded person. He created awareness of the people’s needs and made an effort to solve them. In 2012, Riviera Beach city officials and friends named the city hall complex the Bobbie E. Brooks Sr. Governmental Center in his honor.
Bobbie Brooks’ Charming Professionalism
Close allies say that Bobbie Brooks could not be bought. He stood his ground and didn’t mind being alone on matters of justice and integrity. Brooks believed that the blacks and whites in America could discuss issues and develop solutions constructively. He was a true professional who lived his dream by holding on to his beliefs.
The Black Male Archives
- Bobbie E. Brooks Sr. Legacy. The Palm Beach Post https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/palmbeachpost/name/bobbie-brooks-obituary?pid=2386205&__cf_chl_captcha_tk__=pmd_8eefe53483eb99d34cdeab674585992ab6b7c5af-1627572800-0-gqNtZGzNAzijcnBszQn6
- Howard, W. (2012). Riviera Beach naming municipal complex for Bobbie Brooks.The Palm Beach Post. https://www.palmbeachpost.com/article/20100618/NEWS/812024259
The Black Male Archives Database