After graduating from Childress High School in Wynne and completing a course in elementary electricity, Brooks went on to take an agricultural course at AM&N College at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. From there he went into the US Naval training at Bainbridge, MD to become an officer’s steward. He served in the U.S. Navy for two years and was honorably discharged with an Okinawa Invasion Battle Star.
After his discharge Brooks came to Milwaukee to pursue a career. He found that the Building Trades did not favor minorities or consider veterans but there was a need for skilled construction labor, so he trained to become cement mason. He was one of the first minorities to be accepted into Local 558, the cement masons’ union in Milwaukee. Then he started exploring the real estate for extra income.
Brooks attended the Wisconsin School of Real Estate to learn the real estate sales and brokerage laws and, in 1954, passed the Wisconsin Real Estate Board Examination and became a part time real estate broker. He began to buy, fix up and re-sell older, blighted and neglected buildings. During that time he also started working with Baldwin and Green Realty, a minority real estate firm. There, he learned the nature of sales and services and was among the first minorities in Milwaukee to be accepted in the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. Brooks served as a realtor for 40 years and is now a realtor “emeritus”.
Baldwin and Green encouraged Brooks to become an independent agent, so he formed Beechie O. Brooks Realty Co. and Brooks X-Press Car Wash. During this period Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed Brooks to serve on the Wisconsin Real Estate Licenses Examining Board where he served for 8 years. Mayor Henry Meyer also appointed Brooks to serve on the City of Milwaukee Board of Assessments. He continues to serve on that board today.
In 1969 Brooks joined a group of businessmen who bought and developed the block of vacant land from N. 6th Street to N. 7th Street from W. Walnut Street to W. Vine Street. The Central City Development Corporation elected him as Executive Vice-President. They built the Master Piece Motel and Supper Club, a store, a Laundromat, barbershop and wholesale liquor store on the parcel of land. Ultimately they could not generate enough rent to pay the SBA mortgage of $1.9 million dollars so the project went into default.
He later joined another group of businessmen to charter a minority owned bank in Milwaukee, which became the North Milwaukee State Bank.
After interest rates started increasing and real estate sales began falling, a small group of realtors felt that united under one corporation, they could keep down overhead to remain competitive in the market. Eight realtors merged to become United Realty Group, Inc.., with Brooks serving as president.
In 1972 the City of Milwaukee set aside a blighted area of the central city and asked developers to submit proposals on redevelop it. Brooks’ proposal was accepted and, today, the area is Halyard Park Subdivision, from N. 4th St. to N. 6th St. between W. Garfield and W. Brown Streets. Because of that development Brook was awarded the first Frank Fitzpatrick Development Award from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.
Brooks has received numerous other awards for his leadership, vision and entrepreneurialship, including the Columbia Savings & Loan “Developer of the Year Award the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee Community Journal Newspaper, the Milwaukee Business Journal, the Milwaukee Times Newspaper and St. Mark A.M.E. Church Legacy Award.
Brooks remains active today, currently serving as Chairman of the Board of the Inner City Redevelopment Corporation, Developer of the Beauchamp Housing, Brooks Plaza and Leon Sullivan Housing.
November 18, 2015 //
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