by Clarence Thomas, Jr.
On April 8th a beloved civil and human rights champion and advocate submitted his letter of resignation to Georgia governor Nathan Deal following thirty-five years as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. The reason? To devote himself fully in bringing closure to the 1946 mass murders in Monroe (Walton County), Georgia steeped in racism, fear, collusion and cover up. The former public servant? None other than the Honorable Tyrone Brooks.
While an impressive political career that began for Brooks in 1980 as a freshman member of Georgia's House of Representatives came to end the eighth of April, his career as a social activist again went into high gear. His focus will now be resolving the mysterious, brutal killing of two Black couples - two men and two women, one of which was pregnant at the time - infamously known as the Moore's Ford Bridge Massacre. "I feel that it's my responsibility and obligation while I’m still young and healthy to devote the rest of my life to completing this assignment," said Brooks in a telephone conversation. "It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s case; it's the Civil Rights movement's case. And we are going to stay on it until we bring closure."
According to Brooks, the incident was the last open public mass lynching in America and is regarded by many as the most important case of the Civil Rights era. In many respects his intention to resolve it more so than ever is an extension of his efforts over the past several decades to keep the incident prominently on the minds of the public. Each year Brooks leads a March and re-enactment of the murders at the very bridge where the lynchings took place.
Brook's heartfelt commitment to getting firm answers about the murders began while serving as a fifteen year old teenage activist. Under the watchful eye of Civil Rights icons like Hosea Williams, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, Ralph Abernathy, Dorothy Cotton and King himself, he learned the way of movement leaders first hand by traveling throughout Georgia, the south and the nation with them as they conducted Freedom School with students and imparted a seamless theme centered around the importance of not being afraid to die. The fearlessness they taught emboldens Brooks and serves as the foundation for a highly successful and productive career in the state house.
His timeline as a state representative is impressive...and long.
He prides himself on a litany of initiatives, projects, resolutions and public outreach efforts he spearheaded. However, Brook's favorites include his 1983 recommendation and passage of Georgia's Anti-Terrorism Stature, the 1986 House embrace of PEACH, as well as his twenty year proposal and cooperation from his peers and others in changing the state flag. And last year Brook's led passage of a bill permitting a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be erected on the grounds of the state capital in Atlanta. He attributes his ability to have gotten these game changing policies off the ground and through the House to his long standing ability to get buy in. "The key to our success has been being able to form coalitions and bring people together across boundaries that divide us," Brooks expressed.
Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas is currently filling Brook’s huge shoes as the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials interim president - a role Brooks enjoyed and elevated while serving according to Lucas. She says she will return to her position as GABEO's Vice President as soon as a permanent "replacement" is on the job. But Lucas put the word replacement in quotations because she admits that a Tyrone Brooks, whom she referred to as her leader and friend in a recent discussion with her, can never be truly replaced. "His legacy will be that he went all over this state and nation helping people," said Lucas. "Despite the dangers he has faced, the sacrifices he has made and the personal and political attacks he has endured, Tyrone has never stopped working and fighting for people that could not for themselves."
Brook's new capacity to focus narrowly on resolving the Moore's Ford Bridge lynchings has picked up significant speed since he began memorializing the event several years ago. The case now has the attention of the United Nations, the international press, ordinary citizens around the globe as well as former Georgia governor Roy Barnes, who ordered the case reopened while serving as governor. Various road blocks kept the incident on ice until 2001 when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation stepped in and made it possible to re-pursue it revealed Brooks. Time is now of the essence as well he suggested. Many of those tied to the original mid - forties incident as potential culprits, accomplishes, witnesses and willing workers have died or are in poor health. "This is a very, very deep case made harder because of the collusion of law enforcement and powerful politicos," he shared. "Now that I can, I want to devote all that I have to resolving this."
If successful, the resolution of the murders will serve as additional fuel in his quest to create a museum dedicated to the history of the event and reveal its entire backstory as one rooted in evil deeds like the Ku Klux Klan's attempt to deter determined Black people of Monroe and other cities and towns around the state from voting. The case stayed on the agenda of King for twenty two years (1946 -1968) Brooks says, going to his grave with him as one that King had planned on throwing himself into fully on the heels of his appearance in Memphis, Tennessee on behalf of struggling sanitation workers. Brooks was in the middle of working profusely on the Moore’s Ford Bridge Massacre assigned by Reverend Hosea Williams at King’s urging at the very time his leader and mentor succumbed to an assassin’s bullet in Memphis on April 4, 1968. For this reason, Brooks hung up his political hat this month, strapped on his Civil Rights and crime solving gloves and is now preparing for the fight of his life. "I stay on this case because I was on assignment at the time Dr. King was assassinated," he stressed. "I'm very focused and fully committed to completing one of Dr. King's last great assignments, the resolution of the Moore’s Ford Bridge Massacre - the most difficult and dangerous one of my career. This is a movement that continues. I want to solve it before I die"
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