|Elder C.D. Brooks speaks on the Breath of Life television broadcast.
Photo courtesy of Breath of Life
On June 5, 2016, retired Seventh-day Adventist evangelist C.D. Brooks passed to rest after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. Brooks worked as a pastor, administrator, evangelist, and chaplain for the church since 1951 when he graduated from Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Alabama, with a degree in theology.
Brooks’ first love was evangelism and he continued to conduct meetings after taking on the role of church administrator for the General Conference (GC), located in Silver Spring, Maryland. “Evangelism is the elixir that warms up a cold church,” Brooks said, “the force that moves the members from standing on the premises to standing on the promises.”
Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, shared his thoughts upon learning of Brooks’ passing, "I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Elder Brooks. He was a great preacher and one of God’s true saints. I have watched him walk the halls of our office and used to repeat in my head ‘he is a prince among men.’ I will miss him but one day soon he will have eternal youth and live forever with his dear wife and family."
Charles Decatur (C.D.) Brooks was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, on July 24, 1930, the tenth child of Marvin and Mattie Brooks. Although Methodists at the time, shortly after C.D.’s birth the Brooks family began observing the seventh-day Sabbath in honor of a pledge Mattie Brooks made to God while in a hospital bed suffering from a near-fatal illness. Learning more truth years later from reading Ellen G. White’s The Great Controversy, C.D., along with his mother and six sisters, was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church on a Sabbath in 1940. In 1947 after attending an evangelistic tent meeting, C.D. remained under the tent long after the last person had departed. “Charles, I want you to make truth clear,” C.D. distinctly heard a voice say, and then had a vision of himself standing behind the pulpit at the front of the tent, proclaiming the truth with power and clarity. Brooks immediately jettisoned his career plans for dentistry for the ministry, setting his sights on Oakwood.
At Oakwood, Brooks met the love of his life, Walterene Wagner, daughter of John H. Wagner, Sr., a stalwart of 20thcentury black Adventism. Along with other roles, Wagner was the first president of Allegheny Conference, one of the five inaugural leaders of regional conferences in 1945.
Brooks heard God speak for the second time in his life when a voice said to him, concerning Walterene, “Charles, this is the young lady you will marry.” The two were united in marriage on September 14, 1952, at the Ebenezer Seventh-day Adventist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. C.D. served the Columbia Union as a pastor, evangelist and administrator until 1971, working mostly in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Ohio.
In 1971 C.D. Brooks was asked by General Conference president Robert Pierson to serve as a field secretary for the Seventh-day Adventist world church, a role he held until 1995, making him the longest tenured field secretary in church history. While serving at the GC, Brooks took on the dual role as speaker/director for the Breath of Life Ministry, a new television ministry of the GC that was produced at the Adventist Media Center in Thousand Oaks, California. Brooks partnered with Walter Arties, Louis B. Reynolds, and the Breath of Life Quartet to produce television programming that reached out to audiences all around the world. As speaker-director of Breath of Life, Brooks took his place among legendary Adventist media revolutionaries such as H.M.S. Richards, George Vandeman, William Fagal. In 1989 the ministry was broadcast on Black Entertainment Television (BET), and reached a potential audience of more than 90 million people a week.
Brooks was speaker-director of Breath of Life Ministries for 23 years, from 1974 to 1997. In his time at the helm, the ministry brought approximately 15,000 people to Christ, established 15 Breath of Life congregations, and was viewed by untold millions. In 1994 Brooks was inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers and Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1996 health challenges forced Brooks to retire from the General Conference and in 1997 he stepped down as speaker-director for Breath of Life. Brooks had a long and productive retirement and in 2007, in honor of E.E. Cleveland, Charles Bradford, and C.D. Brooks, the Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks Leadership Center (BCBLC) was established. The center is housed on the campus of Oakwood University in a 10,000-square-foot, $2.5 million state-of-the-art edifice.
On December 1, 2010, the Ellen G. White Estate elected Brooks a lifetime member of the Ellen G. White Estate Board. The North American Division invited Brooks to be its chaplain in residence in 2013, a position he held until his death.
Elder C.D. Brooks is survived by his beloved wife of almost 64 years, Walterene, his children Diedre and Charles “Skip” Jr., and three grandchildren, two boys and a girl.
—Prepared by the North American Division Office of Communication, with information gleaned from a life sketch of C.D. Brooks written by Benjamin Baker, Ph.D. Click here to read the entire life sketch, view Brooks’ life timeline, and more.
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