Major Gen. Ronald E. Brooks died March 22, 2018, but his memory and legacy lives on in Lawrence.
On Oct. 1, the City of Lawrence held a ceremony to dedicate a memorial honoring Brooks and to rename Walter Reed Road to Brooks Boulevard between 56th Street and 59th Street.
Brooks was the last commanding general of Fort Benjamin Harrison. The City of Lawrence Government Center also is named in Brooks’ honor. The government center is called the Major General Ronald E. Brooks Lawrence Government Center. Mayor Steve Collier, Fort Harrison Reuse Authority President Jeff Vest, Brooks’ wife Drusilla Brooks and others spoke at the event. Many members of the Brooks family attended.
During the ceremony, Vest gave a brief history about the fort and Brooks’ efforts to preserve its historical presence. The FHRA was established in 1995 as a “special purpose unit of government created to revitalize the economy following the closure of the Fort Benjamin Harrison Army Base,” according to its website. Brooks played a significant role in that effort.
“All communities have an identity, and Lawrence was known for its great schools, tucked out here in northeastern Marion County, and we had an active military base since 1906,” Vest said. “In 1991, when the Cold War shifted to the Middle East, Major Gen. Brooks came on board and guided Fort Harrison through Desert Storm. Gen. Brooks had an inkling that the old fort’s days as an active base were numbered. When it was announced by BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) in 1991 that it was going to close, holy heck.”
By the time the closure was announced, hundreds of thousands of soldiers had passed through the fort during its lifetime. It also was home to thousands of civilian workers.
“Those of us that lived on base and in the surrounding areas because there wasn’t always housing available – this was our home for that time,” Drusilla Brooks said. “Fort Benjamin Harrison, for those that served, this is our history. Every time we came to Fort Benjamin Harrison, it was, ‘We’re going home.’”
Vest said commissions began meeting in 1991 with the goal of saving the fort. On Sept. 30, 1995, the fort was decommissioned.
“But we had a plan,” Vest said. “Gen. Brooks had a plan for our assets out here. His goal was to maintain a historical presence of the military out here. We have an Army, Navy, Marine reserve because of his vision out here. Residential, recreation, business opportunities – that is what Gen. Brooks envisioned for the old fort. I hope we have made the old general happy.”
Brooks began his Army career as an infantry officer at Fort Benning, Ga., and he later joined the Army’s Adjutant General’s Corps. Brooks served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
During his career, Brooks also served at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico; Fort Rucker, Ala.; Fort Harrison in Lawence.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; the U.S. Army War College; Carlisle Barracks, Penn.; and in Washington, D.C., and Germany.
Brooks was promoted to brigadier general in 1985 and subsequently served in a series of senior leadership roles developing and implementing critical wartime personnel management capabilities and essential support services for soldiers. In 1989, he was promoted to major general and assumed duties as the deputy chief of staff for personnel, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army. His military career culminated as the commanding general, U.S. Army Soldier Support Center at Fort Benjamin Harrison.
Major General Ronald Brooks’ memorial
The memorial at Brooks Boulevard honoring the late Major Gen. Ronald Brooks reads: “Brooks Boulevard. Dedicated to Major General Ronald E Brooks Last Commander of Fort Benjamin Harrison And US Army Soldier Support Center August 31, 1990 – September 30, 1995 Fort Benjamin Harrison Indiana March 3, 1903 – September 30, 1995.”