Brooks is frozen in that November 1963 image, standing behind a grief-stricken
Brooks died Tuesday at a Beaumont, Texas, hospital after a sudden illness, according to a statement from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. He was 89.
The irascible, cigar-smoking Brooks was the last survivor of a group known as "Mr. Sam's Boys," proteges in the Texas congressional delegation of legendary Democratic House Speaker Sam Rayburn, a fellow Texan who spent 17 years in the post.
"I'm just like old man Rayburn," Brooks once said. "Just a Democrat, no prefix or suffix."
He was "tough, bold, and bigger than life," Biden said in a statement. "He lived by principles that were carved into his heart, and he was never afraid to fight for what he believed in."
First elected to the House in 1952, Brooks was returned to office 20 times by his southeast Texas district. He was ousted in the Republican revolution of 1994.
Rayburn appointed Brooks to the House Government Operations Committee, a panel he eventually chaired. Peering at witnesses over his glasses as he chewed on a cigar, he became known as a scourge of bureaucrats, grilling them for wasting taxpayers' money.
"I never thought being a congressman was supposed to be an easy job, and it doesn't bother me a bit to be in a good fight," Brooks once said.
He authored a law that required full and open competition to be the standard for awarding federal contracts and another that established independent offices of inspector general in major agencies to prevent fraud and waste. Other Brooks bills reduced federal paperwork, provided a uniform system of federal procurement, eliminated overlapping audit requirements and established the Department of Education.
"He literally has saved American taxpayers billions of dollars through his actions in improving government efficiency and eliminating waste," former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe, a longtime friend, said in 2008 when Brooks donated his congressional papers and other items to the Center for American History at the University of Texas. Briscoe died in 2010.
Brooks also served on the
Jack Bascom Brooks was born Dec. 18, 1922, in Crowley, La., and moved to Texas at age 5.
He attended Lamar University in Beaumont, later earning a bachelor's degree in journalism and a law degree from the University of Texas. He served with the Marines in the Pacific during
He supported civil rights bills, refused to sign the segregationist "Southern manifesto" in 1956 and helped write the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.
His support of abortion rights and a ban on assault weapons were considered factors when he lost his congressional seat in 1994 during an election season in which many
In 1960, Brooks married Charlotte Collins. The couple had three children, Jeb Brooks, Kate Brooks Carroll and Kim Brooks, and two grandchildren.