Outstanding athlete, accomplished public speaker, renowned coach are just a few of the descriptions one hears about Brooks Johnson, a Plymouth High School graduate and all-around Plymouth Kid who died on June 19 at 90 years old. He was one of Alice “Ma” Urann’s “Boys,” which made him even more special. If you were one, you know.

His life was marked by one highlight after another. He graduated from Tufts, played college football and ran track. Wow, did he ever! In 1963, Brooks was a member of the Gold Medal winning 4×100 relay team at the Pan American games. Destined to compete further, his track career and shot at being on the 1964 Olympic team was cut short by a car accident on the way to a qualifying meet at Stanford University.

While working for the U.S. State Department following his earning a law degree from the University of Chicago, Brooks began a teaching and coaching career at St. Albans School in Washington. One of his pupils was future vice president Al Gore.

He was a community organizer and motivator of change, including the founding of the Skip Grant program that served students from traditionally under-represented backgrounds and the RISK program that he used to steer some 200 inner-city young men to prep schools.

His coaching career took him to the University of Florida, Stanford University, and California Polytechnic State University. Brooks career included coaching Olympians such as silver medalist Willie May, Esther Story, Evelyn Ashford, Chandra Cheeseborough, and Lacey O’Neal. He has always been held in high regard by athletes and coaches across America.

Brooks always paid attention to his hometown of Plymouth. He kept in touch through social media and would offer words of encouragement often. During the early ‘70s he came back to participate in a PCHS school program “Operation Rap” at the behest of Alice Urann. She was proud of her one-time student and used his story as an example for her “boys” that followed.

His life, accomplishments and the respect that he earned in so many areas and from so many has been special and supported a life well lived.

Michael Gallerani

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