On April 4, 1968, the death of Martin Luther King Jr. shocked the nation. A few days later, the Boston-born priest Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., then a professor of theology at the College of the Holy Cross who shared Dr. King’s dream of an integrated society, drove up and down the East Coast searching for African American high school recruits, young men he felt had the potential to succeed if given an opportunity.
Among the 20 students he had a hand in recruiting that year were Clarence Thomas ‘71, the future Supreme Court justice; Edward P. Jones ‘72, who would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature; Theodore Wells ‘72, who would become one of the nation’s most successful defense attorneys; Stanley Grayson ‘72, future New York City deputy mayor who would break the color bar on Wall Street; and Eddie Jenkins ‘72, who would play for the Miami Dolphins during their 1972 perfect season.
Now, the stories of their time at Holy Cross are being told in a new book, "Fraternity" (Spiegel & Grau, Jan. 3, 2012), by Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Diane Brady, who follows the five men through their college years, reporting on how their time at Holy Cross and their relationships with Fr. Brooks helped shape who they are today.
Not only did Fr. Brooks, who went on to become the longest-serving president of Holy Cross, convince many of the young men to attend the school, he also pushed to get the money for full scholarships to support them, and then mentored, defended, coached, and befriended them through their often challenging college years.
Though more than 43 years have passed since the late Fr. Brooks welcomed this group of African American students to campus, "Fraternity" depicts struggles with minority recruitment, access, and retention that are strikingly similar to today’s challenges.
Brady first wrote about this time in Holy Cross history in a 2007 article for BusinessWeek, and has worked since then to expand the story into a book, which earned praise. Publisher’s Weekly called "Fraternity" “a cogent account that ripples more broadly and addresses issues that remain,” and author Wes Moore says it “brilliantly shows how the attention and concern of one man not only changed the course of these individual lives, but the course of history.”