Journal of the People’s Pastor
“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History
“The Passing Of
Giants Of The Human Spirits”
“A Black Mayor Ahead of His Times”
We were neighbors once upon a time. We were never close friends but
we had a friendly mutually respectful relationship. I participated in
his fundraising when he ran for mayor. He was Teaneck, New Jersey’s
first black mayor – elected in 1983. He served to 1988. The only
other Black mayor in Bergen County, New Jersey at the time was the Rev.
Walter Taylor 1971. Rev. Taylor also was pastor of the Galilee Methodist
Church in Englewood, New Jersey. He officiated my wedding to Ms. Karen
Smith in 1962.
He was tall, dark with flashing eyes. He was brilliant and forward thinking.
He was tough but always respectful to everybody.
Mr. Paul Astrow, former mayor of Teaneck, NJ said, “A true legend.
Bernie was one of those people I tried to emulate in the way he treated
people.” Councilwoman Jacqueline B. Kates, another former mayor,
said, “He was stern at council meetings and disliked a lot of
talk during public sessions. He always addressed residents as ‘Sir’
and ‘Madame.’” She continued, “He wanted to
treat everybody the same way with dignity and respect. Bernie transcended
race. He was our first black mayor that was a very proud achievement
for him and a proud moment for Teaneck.”
His quest for dignity and respectful interaction among all people motivated
him to start a Friendship Day Program. He encouraged black and white
families to visit each other’s homes.
He was a true professional in his business and politics. He was a finance
and management consultant. He tried to move Teaneck Council into the
computer age. Another former mayor, Frank Hall, recalled, “When
he joined the council he tried to make it more professional that’s
where his management and expertise came in. He was a big help.”
While his business and political responsibilities kept him busy, he
still found time to voluntarily participate in many organizations and
activities. He was a member of the Bergen County NAACP, the Urban League
of Bergen County. He was active in the little league, senior housing
and Bergen County Girl Scout Council. He was a trustee of Holy Name
Hospital in Teaneck, NJ. He served on the advisory Board at the School
of Management at the New Jersey School of Technology and was a member
of the New Jersey’s Supreme Court Ethics Committee.
On October 2003, Teaneck expressed gratitude for Mr. Brooks’ character
and contributions. The township dedicated a park – the Bernard
E. Brooks Park – in his honor. The Park is located on Intervale
One evening as I passed his home, the ambulance was parked out front.
I went inside. There was a heavy, sad silence. People spoke in hushed
voices. I knew something strange and traumatic had happened. He was
seated in the living room, his body, his aura, his face, especially
his eyes, told me what I knew in my spirit. I had been in this place
before many times. Death had entered the house. I sat beside him. He
said, “My wife just died.”
We sat in silence for what seemed a long time. In times of staggering
sorrow or trauma, I hesitate to speak. Always I remember Job and his
friends. Job’s suffering and lost has become proverbial. His children
were killed; he lost his wealth. His body was afflicted with a painful
decease. His wife told him to curse God and die and it seemed that God
had forsaken him. His friends came to comfort him. For three days, they
sat in silence. And then they spoke. They said all the wrong things.
Job angrily said to them, “Miserable comforters are ye all.”
After a while, I spoke to him about faith and hope. Then I prayed for
him. We sat for a little while longer. Then I took my leave. Not long
after he moved back to the South Carolina to Spartanburg. And now he
has moved to his eternal home.
He is survived by his wife, Julia Lyons-Brooks of Spartanburg; four
daughters, Sharon Brooks of Thousand Oaks, California; Karen Brooks
of Gwynne Oak, Maryland, Susan Brooks of Newark, New Jersey and Theresa
Brooks of Atlanta, Georgia. He is also survived by three sisters, Martha
Brooks Ruth Webster both of the Bronx, New York and Vivian Bracey of
Mt Vernon, New York.
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from 2pm to 4pm.
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