Dunbar Brooks, education leader, dies at 63
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 13:56

Dunbar Brooks served as president of both the county and state school boards during his years as an education leader.
file photo 

 by John G. Bailey

    Education leader and Turner Station community advocate Dunbar Brooks died from an infection on Aug. 17. He was 63.
    A Turner Station resident for most of his life, Mr. Brooks was the first African-American president of the Baltimore County School Board, where he served for two terms from 1989 to 1999. He later served on the Maryland State Board of Education from 2002 to 2009 and was president of the board from 2007 to 2008.
    As an education leader, he was particulary concerned with the achievement gap in schools among African-American boys. He promoted single-sex classrooms and high academic standards as potential solutions, which he often described as the key to improving the circumstances of African-Americans..
    “He was a positive male role model,” said longtime associate and Turner Station leader Courtney Speed. After the death of her husband, Speed encouraged her sons to emulate Mr. Brooks. She lauded his “faith, honesty, organizational capacity, tenacity, educational astuteness and oral eloquence.”
    Mr. Brooks also worked for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC) for 34 years, first as a planner then as director of data development. He spent most of his career gathering data from the U.S. Census and other sources to identify key demographic trends for use in long-term urban planning.
    “Dunbar was a vital part of the BMC family,” according to a press release issued by the group. “He served as mentor to senior managers and staffers alike. He always treated others with respect and he made decisions based on high ethical standards throughout his life and career.”
    Brooks served for several years as president of the Turner Station Development Corporation. In this capacity, he led the opposition to the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal planned for Sparrows Point, across from Turner Station. The LNG proposal was scrapped last year.
    He also worked on other environmental issues facing his neighborhood, including the resolution of chromuim contamination issues in an area of the Dundalk Marine Terminal adjacent to Turner Station, where potential carcinogenic chromium-laced dust was detected in 2006.
    Turner Station community leader Gloria Nelson was a personal friend of Brooks. “He was an icon for Turner Station,” she said. “He stood for what was right for the people. He was a servant above all servants and never said no when you needed him.”
    Brooks was appointed to the Baltimore County Board of Recreation and Parks by County Councilman John Olszewski Sr. He served for 15 years in the organization, retiring in 2013 due to health problems. “His dedicated service to the field of education and to the community — especially his beloved hometown of Turner Station — is legendary,” the councilman said. “He was a friend, and I shall miss him.”
    In a press release, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz called Brooks “a dedicated public servant who made Baltimore County a better place.”
    In a statement to The Eagle, state Sen. Norman Stone said “Dunbar was a friend and pillar of the community. His passing is a great loss for the people of Baltimore County. He  will be truly missed.”   
    Mr. Brooks was born in Baltimore. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam in the U.S. Army.
    He earned degrees from Coppin State University in 1969, the Community College of Baltimore in 1975, Morgan State University in 1976, the University of Maryland at Baltimore in 1978 and Johns Hopkins University at 1979. He taught as an adjunct faculty member at the Community College of Dundalk [now CCBC Dundalk] from 1982 to 1989 and at Morgan University from 1989 to 2000.
    Brooks was a lifetime member of the Dundalk-Sparrows Point NAACP and a member of St. Matthews United Methodist Church.
     He was recipient of the Baltimore County NAACP Excellence in Education Award, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Baltimore City Community College and the Chesapeake Region Community Service Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
    Brooks leaves behind Edythe “Edie” Brooks, his wife of 37 years, children Cheryl Brooks, Tracey Williams and Gary Young and three grandchildren.
    Viewing will be held Sunday, Aug. 24, from 3 to 7 p.m. at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church, 101 Avon Beach Road. Funeral services will begin Monday, Aug. 25, with a wake at 10 a.m. and a service at 11 a.m. at Union Baptist Church, 105 Main St., followed by interment at Cedar Hill Cemetery, 5859 Ritchie Highway.