Remembering Legendary Black Adventism Pastor CD Brooks Who Passed Away at 85: 13 Things To Know

Ella Castle

Pastor C.D. Brooks died on June 5, 2016, in Laurel, Md., at the age of 85. But he has not been forgotten. Brooks was a leading Seventh-day Adventist evangelist. He led the Breath of Life Ministries in Huntsville, AL. He died of pancreatic cancer. Here are 13 things to know […]

Pastor C.D. Brooks died on June 5, 2016, in Laurel, Md., at the age of 85. But he has not been forgotten. Brooks was a leading Seventh-day Adventist evangelist. He led the Breath of Life Ministries in Huntsville, AL. He died of pancreatic cancer.

Here are 13 things to know about the groundbreaking pastor.

1. About Pastor Brooks

Charles Decatur Brooks was born in Greensboro, N.C., on July 24, 1930. He was the 10th child of Marvin Brooks and the former Mattie Reaves, both of whom were Methodists. The couple had a 40-acre farm.

Six months after he was born, he nearly died from a surgery. His mother recalled she had a vision and heard a voice urging her to keep the biblical commandments. It was at this point that she began observing the Sabbath from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday, which is what Seventh-day Adventists follow.

2. Brooks, a man of firsts

Brooks hosted a television program called “Breath of Life.” It was billed as the first Black religious television program. Through the program, Brooks delivered the church’s message to millions. He spent 23 years broadcasting “Breath of Life.” Black Entertainment Television (BET) began distributing the program in 1989, reaching Black people not only in the U.S. but also in the Caribbean.

3. Brooks ad his evangelical campaign

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For six decades, Brooks conducted an evangelical campaign that was credited with converting tens of thousands and establishing 15 congregations in cities across the country, The New York Times reported.

4. About Breath of Life

The church has about 1.2 million members in its North American Division, about 37 percent of whom are Black.

The pastor retired from the Breath of Life in 1997 for health reasons following a heart attack but continued to preach. In 2013, he was named chaplain of the church’s North American Division.

He served as a pastor in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio. In 1971, he became a general field secretary of the General Conference, the church’s worldwide administrative body, which is headed by a president. He served in that job until 1996. He became the speaker for “Breath of Life” from 1974 until 1998.

5. Brooks and a higher calling

In the book “C. D.: The Man Behind the Message,” authors Harold L. Lee and Benjamin Baker describe the spiritual awakening Brooks has as a North Carolina farm boy. Prior to hearing his calling, most thought Brooks was headed for a career as a dentist. That was until a teenage Brooks attended a tent revival meeting run by E. E. Cleveland, an Adventist evangelist and civil rights leader who led mass baptisms.

“Charles had thought that in his career as a dentist, he was going to fight tooth decay,” the authors wrote. “Now, a higher power had determined that he would fight truth decay.”

6. The childhood of Brooks

When Brooks was 10, his mother had read “The Great Controversy” by Ellen G. White, co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the family began worshiping in an Adventist congregation, the New York Times reported.

When Brooks told his mother about his tent experience, she said to him: “Son, when you were born, I gave you to the Lord. Now He’s calling you.”

7. Brooks and his college days

After high school, he enrolled in Oakwood College (now Oakwood University), a historically Black Adventist school in Huntsville, Ala. He studied theology from 1947 to 1951, paying his way through school by milking cows at the school’s dairy farm, as a packer in a meat factory, and doing other odd jobs.

8. His first crusade

A year after graduating, he ran his first evangelistic crusade, in Chester, Pa., in 1952.

Brooks continued to lead evangelistic meetings, having done so on six continents.

9. Pastoring

From 1957 to 1959, he led the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbus, Ohio. In 1959 he was pastor at the Glenville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, a major assignment for a man just in his twenties.

10. His evangelistic career

By 1966 he had been elevated from a field secretary of the Columbia Union to the first ministerial secretary. The Columbia Union Conference coordinates the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s work in the Mid-Atlantic U.S.

11. Brooks, the evangelist

As an evangelist, he spread the word of his church in Newark, New Jersey. At the time, 1966, it had almost a half million residents and was the largest city in the Garden State. It was in Newark that a groundbreaking event in Adventism would take place, according to “C. D.: The Man Behind the Message.”

12. Brooks in Newark

The historic Newark Symphony Hall was the venue for Brooks’ evangelistic meetings. During the summer of 1966, there was an evangelistic series that marked Symphony Hall as the site of the first official joint evangelistic series in the Seventh-day Adventist Church by both a Black and a white evangelist. The Columbia Union Conference executive committee passed a motion for Alvin Stewart, the white pastor of the Newark church, to serve as an assistant evangelist to C. D. Brooks, according to Columbia Union Visitor.

13. Other milestones

Brooks spoke at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration on January 20, 1981. He received an honorary doctorate from Andrews University in 1985, and in 1994 was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers and Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College. In 1995, the pastor took part in Net ’95, the largest and most extensive evangelistic program in Seventh-day Adventist history up to that time, Black Past reported.

Pastor C.D. Brooks (Photo: Breath of Life website,

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