Charles Lee Brooks
1923 - 1989
Charles Brooks, associate director of the General Conference Church Ministries Department, was an acclaimed musician whose music permeated all aspects of his life and ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist church. A tenor, he sang at countless evangelistic meetings throughout his career as a minister, then administrator, in the church. Even during his last twelve years of ministry, when he was fighting cancer, he worked unstintingly in his leadership roles and continued to sing.
Charles was born in Wilson, North Carolina, on June 8, 1923, and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, the oldest of five children of Albert and Eva Mae Evans Brooks. From his earliest years he was precocious and had a passion for reading and music, beginning to sing publicly at age four. While he was best known by members of the church around the world as a singer in evangelistic meetings, his interest in music included classical music as well.
He was also a well-informed person whose passion was reading. He attended Oakwood College, now University, and then graduated summa cum laude from Howard University with majors in history, classical languages, and education. He also completed a master's degree with honors at the SDA Theological Seminary. Those who knew him well often described him as an intellectual with a highly disciplined mind.
Brooks started his service for the church as a pastor in 1954 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was ordained in 1960. He subsequently served as principal at Pine Forge Academy in Pennsylvania, Superintendent of Education in the Allegheny East Conference, and then as religious liberty director in the Southern Union from 1970 to 1975. His success in that position opened doors for other African-Americans for service outside the regional black conferences.
Called the "Sweet singer of Israel," he relished singing hymns that spoke to the heart. Although a serious medical problem caused him to lose his ability to speak and sing for nearly a year in the early 1970s and left him with a voice that was barely more than a whisper, he recovered. He described the circumstances surrounding that recovery as miraculous.
In his role as a General Conference secretary, Brooks led out in establishing the Office of Church Music and then became its chair. In that position he served as chair of the Church Hymnal Committee, a group of nineteen pastors, laymen, and musicians who worked from 1982 to 1985 to produce the first new hymnal for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in forty years.
He was living in Columbia, Maryland, when he died following a twelve-year struggle with cancer, on December 23, 1989, at age 66. His funeral service, a musical celebration of his life in music and service, was held at the Sligo Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland, on December 27, 1989.
Sources: Barbara Jackson Hall, "Charles L. Brooks Sings, Smiles, Prays," Adventist Review, December28, 1989; "Charles L. Brooks Dies, "Adventist Review , January 11, 6; Southern Tidings, February 1990, 9.