Mrs. Naomi Lewis Brooks
Wife, Mother, Educator, Alexandrian, Leader
April 14, 1934 – May 21, 2020
Naomi Lewis Brooks was born on April 14, 1934, the oldest of the five children of James and Eunice Quander Lewis. As a member of the Quander and Lewis families, Brooks’ roots are woven into the educational, spiritual and social fabric of Alexandria’s rich history.
“There are many young people who look for examples of how to build a life from limited circumstances and become successful as a wife, a mother, an educator, a business person, and as a community leader, not to mention all of the trappings that go with being the wife of an Army General. We hope her example inspires them.” -Army Major General Leo A. Brooks, Sr., Mrs. Brooks’ husband of 65 years
Education and Educating
Naomi Lewis (later Brooks) began her journey in the Seminary community along Quaker Lane in Alexandria. At age 12, she was baptized at Oakland Baptist Church, where her father served as Chairman of the Board of Deacons for 37 years—as had his father before him. As a result, Naomi and all of her siblings were very active in the church’s Sunday School, choirs, and other youth activities.
Her formal education began at the Seminary School for Colored Children, followed by Lyles-Crouch Elementary School and Parker-Gray High School (PGHS). Ms. Lewis (Brooks) graduated second in her class from the segregated all-Black PGHS in 1951.
Not only was she a strong student, graduating with honors from PGHS, she was also a star athlete. She was a starting forward on the girls’ basketball team and earned the school record for the most points scored in a season and the most points scored in a single game.
After high school, Ms. Lewis (Brooks) earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), charting her course as an educator. Following graduation from college in 1955, she began her first year of teaching at Charles Houston Elementary School in Alexandria. On December 24, 1955, she married her college sweetheart, U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Leo A. Brooks, who also has deep familial roots in Alexandria. Their journey together endured nearly 65 years.
When military orders moved the family from Alaska to Central State College in Ohio, Mrs. Brooks continued educating others as a remedial reading clinician in the English Department.
Having moved frequently as a military family, she yearned for home in Alexandria, but always “bloomed where planted” making a difference in every location and educating her own children, students, and even soldiers. Along this winding road, she took graduate courses at Morgan State University, Sacramento State University and completed her masters degree at Virginia State University (VSU). Earning an M.E. in Elementary Education from VSU was just the next step in her lifelong love of learning and teaching. At VSU, Mrs. Brooks was a proud member of the International Reading Association and Kappa Delta Pi Professional Education Sorority.
In 1967 when the family was back in Alexandria, she joyfully went back to teaching in ACPS where she taught fifth grade at Cora Kelly Elementary School, followed by three years at Lynbrook Elementary School in Fairfax County. In all, her elementary and adult teaching career spanned 25 years.
Naomi Lewis Brooks graduating from Parker-Gray High School in 1951
Family and The Winding Road
Mrs. Brooks was an educator and also an exemplary wife and mother. Her personal and professional journey was tightly wrapped around being a military spouse, which she embraced wholeheartedly. With numerous relocations, long separations from her husband, and the worries that go along with military life, she not only endured but impacted many lives.
Six months after their wedding, Lt. Brooks’ first assignment took them to the American Frontier in Alaska, where their two sons were born. Mrs. Brooks embraced all aspects of motherhood and Army life while also getting involved in the community. She interspersed Officers’ Wives Club activities, singing in the chapel choir and teaching General Education Development courses for the Army Education Center.
Following Alaska, they moved to Ohio and then on to Fort Lee, Virginia. While in Ohio, Mrs. Brooks was actively involved in the Association of University Women, the graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, and assisted her husband with his ROTC cadets and their activities.
Back in Virginia, the Vietnam War called her husband away. During this time, Mrs. Brooks raised their two sons and gave birth to their third child, a daughter Marquita. Thankfully, she had a strong family support network of Alexandrians-her parents, siblings, in-laws, and other relatives.
When her husband returned from Vietnam, the family moved to Baltimore and then to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, arriving in 1966. Mrs. Brooks was actively involved in her community, church, and the children’s schools wherever the family landed. She once served as den mother of her sons’ Cub Scout pack.
Returning to northern Virginia again gave the family a chance to reconnect with their extended Alexandria family and give back to the community they call home. It was not long before duty called her Army officer husband back to Vietnam for a second time. Even while caring for her maturing family during this separation, she carried on her career as an educator.
With their sons in their final years of high school and their daughter finishing elementary school, they headed west to Sacramento, California. Mrs. Brooks was never short on enthusiasm and teaching and building through community involvement. In California, she took on leadership roles with the Officers’ Wives Club, became a judge with the Camellia Festival Queen program, served as a board member of the Greater Sacramento United Way, and volunteered with the Sacramento Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Sacramento Area Blood Bank.
When their two years were up in Sacramento, long enough for both sons to graduate from high school and be admitted into West Point, military orders moved the family to Fort Hood, Texas, to serve the command team responsibleMrs. Brooks and her family for 9,000 soldiers and families. Mrs. Brooks nurtured and supported 500 hundred wives in her Officers’ Wives Club and nearly as many in the Non-Commissioned Officers’ Wives group. Getting involved in her daughter’s activities, she also served as the Fort Hood Girl Scout coordinator and a Central Texas Girl Scout Council member.
Philadelphia was the last stop for Mrs. Brooks as an Army wife on the family’s military service journey. It was also a chance for Mrs. Brooks to utilize her leadership and management skills she had developed by continuing her community
outreach and teaching at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
After 30 years of serving in the United States Army, her husband, now a Major General, retired and became the Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia. Mrs. Brooks was the executive director for the Coles House, a residential home for 75 young adult women from around the world who were in Philadelphia to study or begin work experience.
As the Brookses eased into retirement, they moved home to Alexandria, where it all began. Ever the educator, Mrs. Brooks taught Sunday school and was a member of the Alfred Street Baptist Church choir for 30 years. She was the first African American president of the Springfield Acres Garden Club and a Fairfax County women’s golf league.
Mrs. Brooks never stopped following her motto, “Bloom where ye are planted, and God will transplant you to greater things.” The evidence of truth in this motto is abundant in her story, including her final honor, as she was selected to receive The Dean’s Cross, a recognition by the Virginia Theological Seminary in December 2019. The Dean’s Cross is a recognition of “…outstanding leaders who embody their baptismal vows to strive for justice and peace among all people…” She is among past recipients that include The Honorable Madeleine Albright and former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Mrs. Naomi Lewis Brooks, with her husband, was able to enjoy the blessings of their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. She was immensely proud of them and quick to talk about her joy. Their eldest son, Leo Jr., retired from the Army as a brigadier general and became a senior vice president of The Boeing Company. Vincent retired as an Army four-star general. Their daughter, Marquita, continues to practice law in Washington D.C. Mrs. Naomi Lewis Brooks’ legacy continues to live on in all of the lives she touched along her journey that began and ended in Alexandria, Virginia.