University of Maryland Extension

Former UMES Extension Administrator inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame

Dr. Henry Brooks

Dr. Henry M. Brooks, former 1890 administrator for the University of Maryland Extension at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on Oct. 19 for his lifetime achievements and contributions to 4-H.

Honored by the Maryland 4-H Youth Development Program, Brooks was one of 15 people inducted during the ceremony at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Dr. Henry M. Brooks has been a champion of 4-H youth development for more than 50 years. An extension career that began in Alabama in 1967 culminated with his retirement as 1890 administrator for the University of Maryland Extension at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2014. Today, Dr. Brooks continues his commitment to young people and their development.

"We are proud to recognize the 2018 National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees for the passion, dedication, vision and leadership they have shown toward young people during their many years of service to 4-H," says Jeannette Rea Keywood, National 4-H Hall of Fame Committee Chair.

Upon graduating with a degree in Agriculture Education from Tuskegee University, Dr. Brooks began his extension career with Auburn University as a county agent. His responsibilities included work with limited resource farmers and he worked as the 4-H specialist who developed 4-H programs in the classroom for black males in a county public school system that served only African American youth (white youth in the county attended private schools during this period of segregation). In the economically depressed area of Bullock County, Alabama, Dr. Brooks took on the important role of mentor to the youth he served. Their 4-H experiences in the classroom and at 4-H camp were the highlights of their young lives. As an extension agent and a community member, Dr. Brooks provided the young men with activities that prepared them to be responsible citizens and community contributors. The youth with whom he worked so greatly valued this connection that his former students, now in the 50s and 60s, still communicate with him regularly.

Following sabbatical leave to earn his Ph.D., Dr. Brooks returned to extension employment at Kentucky State University. Although his specific responsibilities as a State Program Specialist did not require work with 4-H, he remained active with 4-H clubs in Franklin County and volunteered at 4-H camps during summer months every year. Dr. Brooks characterized his work in Alabama and Kentucky as "some of the most rewarding work a person can do."

Dr. Brooks moved to Maryland in 1980 to begin his 33-year journey as 1890 Extension Administrator. While his responsibilities encompassed all extension program areas he stayed a staunch supporter of the growth and enhancement of 4-H programs. Notably, in his approach to his position he ensured the delivery of a 4-H youth development program that blended the resources of the 1890 program with those of the 1862 programs.

During his tenure he financially supported a full-time State 4-H Specialist position as part of the integrated state-wide 4-H Program. As a capstone to his career, Dr. Brooks collaborated with state 4-H leadership to create and fund a 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) team that annually reaches more than 2,000 youth with afterschool, summer and campus-based STEM programs designed to ignite a spark that will enable youth to take what they learn into their communities and careers.

In 2008, Dr. Brooks was recognized in a State of Maryland ceremony as a "Living Legend in Agriculture" by then Governor, Martin O'Malley, and the State Legislative Black Caucus. In an article about that recognition it was noted that Dr. Brooks' leadership and vision led to a seamless extension program between the state's 1890 and 1862 universities and serves as a model for Land-Grant Universities.

Across the nation, Dr. Brooks was viewed by his fellow 1890 Administrators as the leader who brought 4-H youth development expertise to the table. He effectively helped 4-H become more inclusive as a member of the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees for over a decade, beginning in the late 1990's. As the representative of 1890 programs, Dr. Brooks was a sound advisor who helped everyone come to a better place whenever there were tough issues to be addressed in 4-H. A fellow trustee noted that "he consistently contributed, often with bold and passionate creative ideas and support." For more than a decade Dr. Brooks also served on the Board of Directors of the National 4-H Club Congress.

Now retired, Dr. Brooks continues to give back as a citizen, a value instilled in him through his work and volunteerism in 4-H at the county, state and national level. Drawing on his 4-H work with young men he provides educational mentorship programs for middle and high school youth in his community. He brings his 4-H camp experience to his volunteer work with a camp for children of incarcerated parents. Dr. Brooks shares his commitment to education and providing opportunities for all youth to succeed as a volunteer tutor at a local elementary school. His lifelong ethic of service to youth was firmly cemented by his 4-H youth development experiences and he continues to exemplify the commitment "To Make the Best Better".

The National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees are nominated by their home states, National 4-H Council; the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA); or 4-H National Headquarters/National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) based upon their exceptional leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.

Honorees were presented with a National 4-H Hall of Fame medallion, plaque and memory book during the ceremony. The National 4-H Hall of Fame was established in 2002 as part of the Centennial Project of the NAE4-HA in partnership with National 4-H Council and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA. For more information about the National 4-H Hall of Fame event and past recipients, visit http://www.4-H-hof.com/.

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