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Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks

Brigadier General Elmer T. Brooks completed thirty years of service in the United States Air Force in 1985, having held a variety of positions including: Executive to the Director, National Reconnaissance Office, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force (1973-1975); a principal aide to three successive Secretaries of Defense (1975-1978); Commander of a (Titan II) Strategic Missile Wing (1979-1981); head of International Negotiations (arms control), Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1981-1983); and Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Research & Engineering (1983-1985). He had a second career as a government senior executive, serving in NASA Headquarters as Deputy Associate Administrator, Management & Facilities and Space Communications, (1988-1995).

Brooks was born in Washington, D.C. in 1932, where he attended its public schools, graduating from Dunbar High School in 1949. He received his B.A. degree in zoology from Miami University (Ohio) in 1954, and was commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. In 1973, Brooks received his M.S. degree in administration from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He completed The Executive Program of the Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia, under the Air Force’s Advanced Management Program in 1978.

Brooks entered the Air Force in 1955, and was assigned to an Air Reserve Flying Center in Pittsburgh as Unit Administrative Officer and then as Base Director of Personnel. He then went to the Philippines as a radar station Commander and later served as a personnel division chief, Headquarters 13th Air Force, Clark Air Base. During the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was a Missile Combat Crew Commander and Instructor Crew Commander with the Atlas F strategic missile system, Lincoln, Nebraska. From November 1965- May 1968, the General served in Houston as a Flight Control Technologist for the Gemini and Apollo space missions at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center. His proudest achievement in his military career was his participation in the development of U.S. arms control policy as the representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He played a direct role in formulating the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties.

Brooks’ awards and decorations include: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; the Defense Superior Service Medal, with two Oak Leaf Clusters; the Legion of Merit; the Blanchard Trophy, as Commander of the unit which won the best missile wing competition; the NAACP Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Meritorious Award; the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership; and The George Washington University Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

Brooks was the seventh child of Warren R. Brooks (b. 1874) a mail carrier and government clerk, and Lelia (Williams) Brooks (b. 1888), a school teacher. He can trace his paternal ancestry back to slavery days. His paternal great-grandfather Albert Royal Brooks, was born a slave in 1818 on a James River (VA) plantation. Albert was first a field hand and later was hired out to work in a Richmond tobacco factory. He also became a successful businessman while yet a slave. Eventually he was able to purchase his freedom and that of his wife Lucy Brooks (the general’s great-grandmother) and three of their children. As a free man, Albert also became a politician and a civil rights activist.

Brooks is married to the former Kathryn Casselberry of Dayton, Ohio. They are the parents of a daughter and three sons. General and Mrs. Brooks reside in Rockville, Maryland.

Brooks was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 10, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.139

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/10/2006

Last Name

Brooks

Maker Category
Middle Name

T.

Occupation
Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Miami University

Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Elmer

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

BRO38

Favorite Season

Fall

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/30/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Pork Chops, Greens, Macaroni, Cheese

Short Description

Brigadier general Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks (1932 - ) held positions in the U.S. Military as strategic Missile Wing Commander, Military Assistant to two Secretaries of Defense, and head of International Negotiations in Arms Control for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also served in NASA Headquarters as Deputy Associate Administrator for Management and Facilities.

Employment

U.S. Air Force

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

United States Chiefs of Staff

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392257">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392258">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392259">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392260">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks talks about his paternal grandfather</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392261">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his paternal great-grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392262">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks talks about his paternal great-great-grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392263">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes how his parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392264">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks lists his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392265">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392266">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his childhood neighborhood in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392267">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls the changes to his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392268">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks remembers his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392269">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks talks about Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392270">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls celebrations during his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392271">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks remembers his father's employment at the WPA</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392272">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392273">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls the Thomas P. Morgan Demonstration School in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392274">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks remembers Benjamin Banneker Junior High School in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392275">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks remembers his art teacher, Lois Mailou Jones</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392276">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392277">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his classes at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392278">Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his athletic activities at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392279">Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls the guest speakers at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392891">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls the deaths of his parents and aunt</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392892">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his friends at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392893">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his early employment in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392894">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks remembers Howard University in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392895">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls transferring to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392896">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his employment search in Ohio's Miami Valley</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392897">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks talks about his wife and children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392898">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his first U.S. Air Force assignment</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392899">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his U.S. Air Force assignment in the Philippines</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392900">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his intercontinental missile training</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392290">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his work at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392291">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks remembers the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392292">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his work as a military assistant to the secretary of defense</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392293">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks remembers Secretary of Defense Harold Brown</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392294">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his activities with his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392295">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks remembers McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392296">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his work with the Joint Chiefs of Staff</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392297">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes the Cold War disarmament negotiations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392298">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his investment banking work in London, England</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392299">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his return to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392901">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392902">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his challenges in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392903">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his challenges in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392904">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his family's legacy in the schools of Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392905">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes Paul Laurence Dunbar High School's facility in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392906">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his organizational involvement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392907">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks reflects upon his career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392908">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392909">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his values</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392910">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks shares his advice for young people</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392911">Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes his hopes for the African American community of Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392912">Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392913">Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks narrates his photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/392313">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks narrates his photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

10$8

DATitle
Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks recalls his intercontinental missile training
Brig. Gen. Elmer T. Brooks describes the Cold War disarmament negotiations
Transcript
After that, I applied for missile duty (laughter), coming out of the Philippines. People don't normally apply for missile duty; it's not glamorous duty, sitting down a silo in the Great Plains of the United States. But I thought that if I was gonna stay in the [U.S.] Air Force, I needed an operational specialty; I couldn't fly--my, my eyes were not good enough. I tried at least three times to pass the eye exam for pilot training, but I couldn't pass. Tried every ruse I could think of to get through there, and just couldn't, couldn't make it. So I sa- missiles were the next big operational opportunity for officers who wanted to succeed in the Air Force, so I applied for Atlas training, the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM], and strangely enough, I was turned down for that; I didn't understand why. I had a great record up to that point, but I did have friends in high places. The general who was commander of 13th Air Force and the colonel I worked for both interceded with the higher headquarters and said, "Take this guy or he's gonna get out of the Air Force on us, and send him to missile training," which they did. And I went to missile training at Lincoln Air Force Base, Nebraska, and I spent five years there.$$Now, tell me about that training. What were, what were you involved in learning how to do? And what was the progression?$$It was a very intense five weeks there. For me, it was learning a new--what computers were all about; I didn't know anything about computers, so I had to learn what a computer was, the innards of it, how it worked, the Ps and the Os, and transistors and all the rest of that, so I learned communications. Had to learn rocketry--how you make a, a rocket that boost these warheads--all about the nozzles and the aerodynamics of it and what have you--about the guidance system, about gyros and about spatial alignment for gyros, and those kinds of things, so it was a very intense course of five weeks, and I had to leave my, my family in, in Lincoln, Nebraska. I got home once or twice during that period. We lived in a--my wife [Kathryn Casselberry Brooks] called it a haunted house there; it was the only house we could get (laughter) in Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately, it was an old--creaky, old frame house. But I left them there and--unhappily. They didn't like it. Then, came back to Lincoln and, after some on-the-job training, went on alert as a strategic air command--a deputy missile combat crew commander, so I was a number two guy on a five-man crew. I had a crew commander which normally was a major, a lieutenant colonel, or, in a few cases, a captain. And the deputy crew commander was either a captain or a lieutenant. So I was a deputy commander initially, working for a major, and then after a couple of years, I was upgraded; I became the first crew member to be upgraded to crew commander as a captain. I had my own crew. We did very well; we became an instructor crew to--teaching, teaching the other crews the ins and outs of the system, and won a few awards as being the top crew in the squadron there.$The work of a director in the arm control negotiations was one of the highlights of your career (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, it certainly was.$$Why?$$Yeah. Well, I--when I think of my career, I think of three pieces. I think of the time when I was a warrior, a cold warrior, and the Cold War was essentially 1945, the end of the Second World War [World War II, WWII], through 1990, when the Soviet Union folded--it was caput. During that period, it was Strategic Air Command, and those bombers and missiles that were the--was the counterforce to the Soviet Strategic Forces [Strategic Missile Troops]. And it was by virtue of our strength in the United States that the Soviets didn't, didn't put missiles--intercontinental missiles into Cuba; that was the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I was sitting in a silo during the Cuban Missile Crisis for forty-eight hours there (laughter) with my hand on the, on the trigger, ready to go if President Kennedy [President John Fitzgerald Kennedy] said so, if the, if the Soviets hadn't turned around and taken those missiles out of Cuba. Well, fortunately, that happened. But in any event, I look at that part of my career as a, as the warrior part. Then, the second part was as an arms controller, an arms reducer. Because strangely enough, the [U.S.] military, during the period I was there in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I took a lead role in urging the reduction of nuclear weapons, and we had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, so did the Soviets. And we felt that certainly no more than 5,000 nuclear weapons was more than adequate for deterrence against any adversary we could envision in the future, so we were working toward that goal, bringing it down to 5,000; now, they're trying to get down to 1200, in the latest round of, of talks. But I was involved in every arms control negotiation and agreement that we were involved in--the Law of the Sea [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea], the CSCE, the Conference on Security in Europe [Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe], MBFR [Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions], which is the Mutual and Balanced Forces something (laughter) in Europe. But this was--all of these were essentially with the Soviet Union was a major player on the other side, and we had, of course, negotiators. Principal negotiators would go to the different pla- mainly, Geneva, Switzerland, but also some other places--the UN [United Nations] and Mons, Belgium, places like that, to negotiate these agreements. I'm very pleased to say that the, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] that we engaged in with the Soviets and both sides agreed to, that the principal elements of that agreement, I believe, were, were advocated by my office and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, of course, we had to go through an interagency process--CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], the National Security Council staff, the civilian side of [U.S.] Department of Defense, which didn't always agree with the [U.S.] military side, but we had some pretty strong conservatives on that side--Richard Perle , Freddie Clay, and some others--the state department [U.S. Department of State], the Arms Control Disarmament Agency [U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency]--all of these would get together in interagency groups at the same level, and I was sort of at the, the number two level down in the, in the government negotiating all of these things. Very challenging, very interesting. Then, just to wrap it up, the latter part of my career was with NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], and this was the peaceful uses of space--$$Okay.$$--so I made the full transition there.$$Um-hm. And so this brings you almost about thirty years now. We're talking about mid-'80s [1980s] at this point, uh-huh (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yes it does, yes it does.