The Rev. John E. Brooks, 88, the longest-serving president of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., who as a professor there in the days after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. set out on a mission that led to the integration of what had been an all-male and virtually all-white institution, died Monday in Worcester.
The cause was complications of lymphoma, said Ellen Ryder, a spokeswoman for the college.
On April 4, 1968, the day King was murdered, fewer than a dozen of the 2,200 students at Holy Cross were African Americans, most of them on athletic scholarships. That month, Father Brooks, a theology professor, began driving up and down the East Coast in search of qualified black high school students to recruit to the college, which the Jesuits founded in 1843. Initially he was on his own, paying his own expenses. But support soon followed when the Rev. Raymond J. Swords, the college's president at the time, heard of his quest.