Along with the St Francis burgee, we fly our house flag showing two stars. Those two stars are in honor of Matt’s father, Jack Brooks, who served in the merchant marines and then in the navy during WWII as a ship’s engineer. Fifty years later, he was honored for his service to the nation with a commission to the rank of rear admiral. He was decommissioned the very same day, but for the rest of his life — up until last week when he died at the age of 91 — he wore his two stars with great pride.
Matt’s father encouraged him to learn to sail, inspired in him the discipline and drive to win, and followed Dorade’s current campaign with great pride. We will miss him.
John “Jack” Brooks, a long-time leader in California business, politics, and community service, died on April 16, 2015 at the age of 91. One of the Bay Area’s most successful real estate developers, Brooks was active in California Democratic politics for many decades, and a co-founder of the Oakland Raiders.
“Jack Brooks was an extraordinary man, successful in business, faithful to his family and utterly committed to his community and the state of California,” said Governor Jerry Brown. “Everything he touched was better because of his generosity.”
The son of a Navy engineer, Brooks was born in 1923 in East Oakland, where he attended local schools before getting his first job as a welder in the Alameda shipyards.
Brooks entered the U.S. Maritime Academy at King’s Point, Long Island in 1940. After graduating from King’s Point, Brooks entered the US Navy for a four-year stint as chief engineer.
In 1945 Brooks married his middle-school sweetheart, Barbara Mathews, and took up residence in San Leandro, where the couple raised two sons, William Mathews Brooks and John Brooks.
Brooks returned to school after the war, earning a second degree in engineering, then an LLD from Lincoln University Law School. Near the end of his studies, Brooks took a part-time real estate sales job. By the time he finished law school, he’d bought out his partners and found his true calling as a real-estate developer.
Brooks partnered with F.W. Valley to establish Besco, which quickly became one of the state’s leading homebuilders, specializing in affordable housing throughout Northern California. Later Brooks merged Besco with the Singer Company and became president of the newly formed Singer Housing.
Brooks said his business philosophy was simple, “Find out what the average person needs, and find the best way to provide it.”
Over the course of four decades, Brooks built more than ten thousand homes, thousands of apartment units, and dozens of shopping centers and industrial parks throughout the Bay Area and the five western states. In Fremont, Brooks built one out of every four homes. An original member of the committee that incorporated the City of Fremont in 1956, he held the first building permit issued under the Fremont name.
Innovative land use was a hallmark of Brooks’ development philosophy. In 1966 he was the first developer in the Bay Area to allocate space for public parks under the Planned Unit Development program. Brooks’ mixed-use development model became a nationally recognized example of excellence in moderately priced housing.
Brooks was also the driving force behind California’s first public-private development agreements, helping to pass legislation that enabled local government entities to enter into development contracts with private parties, opening the door to countless planning and development projects across the state.
After his official retirement in 1976, Brooks continued to develop properties, most notably the Ardenwood Forest New Town in Fremont, a billion-dollar development on 850 acres that includes 1,800 homes, public spaces, hiking trails, and the 283-acre Ardenwood Forest Technology Park.
“His goal was to develop a city within a city,” said Herb Epstein, Fremont’s former planning director. “He wanted a place where people could live and work at the same time.”
Brooks’ work in California politics won him fans on both sides of the aisle.
“People who are extremely liberal in their ideology think as highly of Jack as people who are extremely conservative,” said Justice Anthony Kline, presiding justice on the California State Court of Appeal.
A lifelong Democrat, Brooks was California State Treasurer for the Democratic Party in 1970 and its Northern California Chair the following year. Then Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the influential Commission on Judicial Performance.
“Jack was an original,” said Governor Jerry Brown. “He was quick to act and quick to help. What a real pleasure it was to work with him in so many campaigns over so many decades.”
In 1960 Brooks became a co-founder of the Oakland Raiders, and remained the team’s single largest stakeholder over a period that included three Superbowl championships.
Brooks supported a wide range of community causes and served on the boards of many community organizations, including Fremont Bank, California Anti-Litter League, Ohlone College Foundation, Boy’s Clubs of America, Fremont Experimental Housing Commission, and the Fremont Chamber of Commerce.
Brooks was responsible for donating 210 acres of farmland first tilled during California’s Gold Rush to the East Bay Regional Park District, property that is now operated as the Ardenwood Historic Farm. Brooks and his wife Barbara also donated the historic Casa Peralta to the City of San Leandro in 1972.
In 2011 Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the Board of Pilot Commissioners for the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun. Brooks also served on the advisory board of Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, and was elected to their hall of distinguished graduates.
In 2006, Brooks’ service to the nation was recognized by a commission to the rank of Rear Admiral in the United States Merchant Marines, a high honor granted by President George W. Bush. He wore the two stars accorded this rank with great pride.
Jack Brooks was predeceased by his younger brother William (Bill) Brooks, a long-time resident of Sunnyvale who retired to San Diego after working as a nuclear scientist assigned to the US atomic test programs of the 1940s and 50s. Brooks is survived by his wife of 70 years, Barbara Mathews Brooks, his sons, William Mathews (Matt) Brooks and John Brooks, and three grandsons, William (Bill), Stuart, and John (Jack).