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AME Church Bishop H.H. Brookins Remembered

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Hamel Hartford Brookins, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church for 30 years, passed this past Tuesday after a long illness. Bishop Brookins was 86. He pastored the First AME Church of Los Angeles for the past 13 years. Born in Yazoo, Miss and educated at Wilberforce University and Payne Seminary, A long time community activist, Brookins began his social change activism in the 1950s when as a clergyman, he helped implement a desegregation plan ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Brown vs. Board of Education case. In  2002, Former President Bill Clinton joined a host of religious luminaries, elected officials and celebrities in a tribute to Bishop Hamel Hartford Brookins, the son of Mississippi sharecroppers who rose to become a Los Angeles and international champion of black political empowerment. Clinton praised Brookins, for his civil rights legacy and reminisced about the days when the clergyman ministered in a country church in Arkansas when Clinton was governor. “I still can’t quite get used to the fact that you’re wearing purple,” he said at the Beverly Hilton event, referring to Brookins’ status as a bishop. “And I got to be president,” he added. “I learned a lot by your side, had a lot of good times. But my heart will always be with you, because in sunshine and in rain, you were always with me,” the former president said. “You helped me make the country a more free, better and united place.”

Brookins, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal church for 30 years, is best known here as the former leader of First AME Church, which he served 13 years. His activism began 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. In 1965 he worked to quell the Watts riots. He was an architect of Tom Bradley’s campaigns for Los Angeles mayor and, while working in Africa, was ousted from Rhodesia because of his work on behalf of the Zimbabwe liberation movement. In 1981 Zimbabwe invited him back for its first presidential inauguration.  A founding member of Jesse Jackson’s economic activist organization, Operation PUSH, Brookins also worked in Jackson’s presidential campaigns. He developed a friendship with Clinton while assigned to his denomination’s Oklahoma-­‐Arkansas district in the ’80s, when Clinton was governor. Brookins is credited with laying the foundation for First AME Church of Los Angeles political power and community and international influence that continues to serve the preeminent mega-­‐church today. In a prepared statement, his wife, the Rev. Rosalynn Kyle Brookins, pastor of Walker Temple AME Church in Los Angeles, said that the services for her husband would be a reflection of his life and service to the world. Together they have one son, Sir-­‐Wellington Hartford Brookins and two-step children, Mr. Steven Hartford Brookins and Rev. Francine A. Brookins. His family and numerous friends were at his bedside when he died.

His wife, the Rev. Rosalynn Kyle Brookins and three children survive Brookins. Funeral services for Bishop Brookins will be held tomorrow at his church, First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles. Interment will be held at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood following the funeral.

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