Hamel Hartford Brookins, a bishop for 30 years of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a veteran civil rights activist, died on May 22 in Los Angeles, Calif. He was 86.
Brookins, the son of sharecroppers, helped implement school desegregation in Kansas following the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, was one of the architects of Operation PUSH with Rev. Jesse Jackson and played a key role in the campaign of Tom Bradley to become the first African American mayor of Los Angeles.
And as a minister of an AME church in Arkansas, he became friends in the 1980s with future President Bill Clinton.
“I still can’t quite get used to the fact that you’re wearing purple,” he said at a 2002 Beverly Hilton event, referring to Brookins’ status as a bishop. “And I got to be president,” he added.
“I learned a lot by your side, had a lot of good times. But my heart will always be with you, because in sunshine and in rain, you were always with me,” the former president said. “You helped me make the country a more free, better and united place.”
By then, Brookins had already served as leader of First AME Church in Los Angeles for 13 years.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wilberforce University and a bachelor’s in divinity from Payne Seminary. Survivors include his wife, the Rev. Rosalynn Kyle Brookins, pastor of Walker Temple AME Church in Los Angeles, one son, Sir- Wellington Hartford Brookins, and two step children, Steven Hartford Brookins and Rev. Francine A. Brookins.
A public viewing will be held at the Allen House Chapel at 2249 South Harvard Blvd. in Los Angeles from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 31. His funeral will be held at the First AME Church at 2270 South Harvard Blvd. in Los Angeles at 11 a.m. the following day.