William Brooks Jr., 93; Draft Official

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 12, 2006

William Dandridge Brooks Jr., 93, a former professor and patent examiner who later became a senior official with the Selective Service System, died July 28 of pneumonia at Arcola Health and Rehabilitation Center in Silver Spring. He lived in Washington.

After teaching college physics and electrical engineering, Col. Brooks embarked on a long Army career, beginning in World War II, and became one of the highest ranking officials of the Selective Service System during the volatile years of the Vietnam War. He was also known for his long volunteer work in Washington with the Boy Scouts, Salvation Army and other organizations.

Col. Brooks was born in Washington and graduated from Dunbar High School in 1930. He graduated in 1934 from Howard University, where he was a member of ROTC. He taught physics for two years at Howard while studying for his master's degree, which he received in 1936.

He then studied for a doctorate in physics at New York University from 1937 to 1940 while working as a legal librarian at Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. He taught electrical engineering at Florida A&M University before being called into the Army soon after the United States entered World War II.

As an infantry officer, Col. Brooks participated in several battle operations in the Pacific, including the campaigns in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Bismarck Archipelago and the Philippines. He received the Bronze Star Medal for valor in combat.

After the war, he taught at Phelps Vocational High School in Washington before becoming one of the first African American patent examiners at the U.S. Patent Office, where he worked from 1947 to 1950. He examined geometrical instruments during the day and attended law school at night, graduating in 1950 from the Robert H. Terrell School of Law in Washington.

In 1951, Col. Brooks was recalled to the Army during the Korean War and was assigned to the national headquarters of the Selective Service System in Washington. He remained on active duty throughout his Selective Service career, first as a training officer for 12 years and later as assistant chief of the administrative division from 1963 to 1970. He also held the position of safety director for four years. When he retired in 1970, he was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Col. Brooks was a member of many scientific and professional honor societies, including the American Physical Society and American Society of Safety Engineers.

Beginning in 1950, he was a volunteer Boy Scout leader for many years and served on the executive board of the National Capital Area Council of Boy Scouts from 1973 to 1990. He was council chairman from 1971 to 1973. He received the Silver Beaver award and the Order of Merit for his volunteer work with the Boy Scouts.

He served on the advisory board of the National Capital and Virginia Division of the Salvation Army from 1965 to 1990 and was chairman of the board in 1976 and 1977. He was made an honorary life member of the advisory council in 1986, and a room was named in his honor at Salvation Army headquarters.

Col. Brooks was a lifelong member of Metropolitan AME Church in Washington and was a member of the board of trustees and chairman of the board of stewards.

He was an accomplished artist who showed artistic flair throughout his life. During World War II, he often painted portraits of fellow soldiers, and later in life he took up photography, specializing in sunrise and sunset scenes.

Col. Brooks also built an elaborate model railroad system, which took up three rooms in his basement. He gave lectures on model railroading at Union Station and to gatherings of enthusiasts.

His wife of eight years, Juanita M. Brooks, died in 1952.

Survivors include two children, Maxie Ellard of Atlanta and William D. Brooks III of Washington; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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