Former Georgia state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, 70, has been a stalwart warrior on the battlefield for civil rights since the early 1960s. He was a trusted youth leader and foot soldier for Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Brooks has received death threats from the Georgia KKK throughout his life because of his activities. Now Brooks faces jail time for tax, mail and wire fraud that could see him sentenced to two years in federal prison.
This week, icons in the Civil Rights Movement took the witness stand and talked of the incredible works Brooks has accomplished. Those who testified on Brooks’ behalf include former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Rev. C.T. Vivian, Rev. Joseph Lowery and others. Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers pleaded with the judge to sentence Brooks to probation not prison for his conviction. Bowers stated, “I’m here, asking for mercy for an old man, Mr. Brooks. Has he done wrong? Yes. Has he done good? Yes. He has done an awful, awful lot of good. He has a lot of good he can still do.” This sentiment was echoed by many, including former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes who also testified on behalf of the embattled Brooks.
Rev. Lowery delivered his testimony via video: “Tyrone has been a great public servant. He’s made some serious and foolish mistakes. The court would serve the community well by being merciful. I urge her to reach down in her heart and find the quality of mercy. He has been so forceful and concerned about the poor; he deserves all the consideration we can give him.”
Brooks has been the target of political attacks ever since he took up the case of the unsolved 1946 mass lynchings of two black couples that occurred in a the Monroe, Georgia area. The participants in the lynching included law enforcement and prominent state politicians according to one witness. This event is known as the Moore’s Ford Bridge Murders and Brooks commemorates the event with a re-enactment and tour or the crime scene and other lynchings in the area.
Dr. King was going to start a major campaign in Georgia centered on these events, KKK activity and other injustices in his home state. He was assassinated the day before his trip to Georgia. But that did not stop Brooks from exposing this hotbed of KKK activity one hour’s drive from downtown Atlanta. He served in the Georgia State Legislature for almost 35 years. The issue regarding the charges centered on his nonprofit foundation and poor bookkeeping. In April 2015 he pleaded guilty to one count of federal tax fraud and no contest to five counts of wire and mail fraud. He was also convicted of funneling close to $1 million in contributions to his various organizations, which included a labor union and four companies, into his personal bank account.