The Rev. Hamel Hartford Brookins, who was pastor of the influential First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles during the rise and tenure of Mayor Tom Bradley, died Tuesday in a Los Angeles retirement center. From the LA Times obit:
The son of Mississippi sharecroppers, Brookins rose to prominence in the 1960s and '70s as an articulate, self-assured champion of black political empowerment....
Late in his career, Brookins came under scrutiny for alleged misuse of church and federal funds during his time as the African Methodist Episcopal Church's presiding bishop in Los Angeles. He was dogged by similar allegations during later postings in Washington, D.C., and Arkansas. No charges were ever filed, but in 1993, Brookins resigned under pressure as the church's leader in the Washington region. He remained a bishop of the AME church....
"He really was not only a fantastic religious and spiritual leader, he was a fabulous politician," U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) said Wednesday, noting that hers was one of many political careers Brookins encouraged and fostered.
"His role in the black community and his understanding of how to seek power and influence at a time when we had very little is something that really should be understood and appreciated," Waters said.
From Betty Pleasant at the Wave newspapers:
Officers of the historic First AME Church are finalizing funeral preparations for Bishop H.H. Brookins, who died suddenly at noon Tuesday, marking “amen” to a more than 50-year ministry that took him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the international, national and municipal halls of power spreading the gospel of Christ risen from the dead and the actualization of Black political empowerment everywhere. He was 86 years old.
Hamel Hartford Brookins, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church for 30 years, was the pastor of the First AME Church for 13 years, during which he led the congregation of Los Angeles’ oldest African-American church through the building of a multimillion dollar cathedral at its present Harvard Boulevard location.
Born in Yazoo, Miss. and educated at Wilberforce University and Payne Seminary, Brookins began his social change activism in the 1950s when, as a clergyman in Topeka, Kan., he helped implement a desegregation plan ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the groundbreaking Brown vs. Board of Education case.
After that, he helped quell the 1965 Watts Riots and became an architect of Tom Bradley’s campaigns for Los Angeles mayor, thus thrusting him into the middle of virtually every political move made in this city.