Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Bob Williams, Guest Blogging at Blog-Lebo

Bob Williams, who recently left the staff of The Almanac, has volunteered to pitch in with the occasional Blog-Lebo post about Mt. Lebanon. Please welcome Bob (back) to the South Hills media space!

Just as Joe Polk and I don't always agree with each other, I don't expect that Joe or I will always agree with Bob, or he with us. And none of us expect that you, readers of the blog, will always agree with any of us! But we do expect both agreement and disagreement to (continue to be) thoughtful and respectful, even if it is sometimes pretty vigorous, and we look forward to those blog-worthy conversations.

By Bob Williams
Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 12:43 AM

Mt. Lebanon lost a bright and quite capable counselor over the weekend to cancer. I'll remember him most as a man who kept his head in a hurricane of public hysteria, while everyone around seemed to be losing theirs. I say it because I witnessed it. As one journalist who covered the Upper St. Clair International Baccalaureate firestorm of February 2006, Theodore Brooks as school attorney handled himself with such grace and professionalism that I developed a deep respect for him.

He didn't speak often at school board meetings, but when he did, everyone listened. He was that kind of man. In that "mother of all school board meetings" of Feb. 20, 2006, I recall Mr. Brooks was asked point-blank by an IB supporter on the school board whether the 5-member board majority would violate policy by voting that night to disband IB--if such a vote was even legal. With over 1,000 IB supporters in the Upper St. Clair audience (yes, over 1,000) trying to gain whatever leverage they could to save the program, Mr. Brooks paused, then said yes, the board could vote that night. That despite objections, a majority of the board could vote to disband IB. And soon after, they did. I'll never forget it. I thought, "Yikes! That man either has some really huge ones, or he's got his tar and feather repellant suit on."

Let's just say there were some folks in attendance who didn't like that answer. But Mr. Brooks of course knew the law, and made his rulings based strictly on the law. That was just the way he was. I always thought he would have been a fantastic judge. He could put all the noise aside, look at the law and in short order render a verdict.

I heard he was ill several years ago, but he bounced back and looked great. He beat it, I thought. He resumed attending school board meetings and in no time he was on top of his game. Three years flew by. But Ted suddenly stopped coming to meetings. I was saddened to see a note from his wife explaining that Ted wanted to come home. That physicians said nothing more could be done. I wished it wasn't so.

In media circles, attorneys are generally the brunt of jokes. Journalists curse some of them (well, a lot of them maybe) in all manner of undignified language. But not Mr. Brooks. Seriously. You just didn't think things like that about Mr. Brooks. Ted always accepted media calls and gave straightforward answers. Every time. And he was also the kind of man who liked a joke and enjoyed a laugh. We have that in common, as I found out.

Case in point: I decided it might be humorous to start donning old vari-view buttons on my jacket in the fall months before November elections. It started with a "JFK-Man for the 60s" button. Ebay being a clearinghouse of old campaign buttons, I bought at least a dozen of them and rotated stock. One button caught Ted's attention. "Make it Emphatic, Vote Straight Democratic---Stevenson-Williams." Now, the "Stevenson" wasn't Mt. Lebanon's Tom, it was Adlai. Ted stopped, looked closer, laughed and said something about "Soapy" Williams!!! on my button. "He was governor of Michigan and was on Michigan's Supreme Court. Where the !#@! did you get that ???" he said laughing.

From then on, Ted followed the rotations of the campaign buttons and always got a laugh out of the newest fast fashion. But what about "Soapy" Williams? Surely, Ted was wrong about that. Who would vote for a governor named "Soapy?" Well..."Soapy" was the nickname for G. Mennen Williams, Michigan's governor in the late 1940s and 1950s. "Soapy" was no doubt a better name them something so Germanic as "Gerhardt" in post WWII America, but his family made its fortune off men's shaving products and soaps, hence "Soapy" and his brother "Bubbles." Sure enough, it became quickly apparent Ted was right as usual. We'll miss you friend.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with Bob about Mt. Lebo resident and USC solicitor Ted Brooks. Ted was a gracious, kind and courageous gentleman. We have lost a friend because God has called home his son, but we will always have our fond memories of Brooksie.
God bless you, Ted.

Mark Trombetta

July 09, 2009 5:28 AM  

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