Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we’re talking with attorney Gary Brooks ’79, history, about his career in law.
Q: Tell us a little about how you wound up at UMBC. What’s your background?
I am a 1974 graduate of Baltimore City College and we visited UMBC for an overnight visit with a good friend’s relative. I grew up in East Baltimore. I really liked the modern campus and since my parents were elderly, I wanted to stay in the area.
Q: Tell us about your career as an attorney. Were there any lessons you learned, in particular, at UMBC that you carried with you into your work?
UMBC significantly helped further develop my writing skills and allowed me to have leadership roles in my fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and serve as a SGA Student Life Senator. I attended UMBC during a time of political unrest and attended and helped organize political events. In regards to being an attorney, UMBC is the one of area leaders in producing attorneys and judges in the State of Maryland. My UMBC colleagues have provided some great attorney resources and friends, such as James L. Wiggins ’75. The UMBC legal community has a strong presence and influence on the Maryland community. UMBC also gave me opportunity to teach an upper-level grade course on Blacks and the Criminal Justice system for several years.
Q: You’re involved with the Maryland Volunteer Legal Services (MVLS). Tell us a little bit about why you do pro bono work and what you’ve learned from those experiences.
In regards to MVLS, I primarily do pro bono legal services for eligible low income bankruptcy clients. My parents and family were strong advocates of community service and assisting others. These services are very helpful in relieving some of the financial stress that the families are shouldering. My early career out of college at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, working with and being mentored by Ralph E. Moore, Jr., demonstrated the importance of organizing, community development, fundraising and community service. I am also very involved in the UMBC second General Scholarship Fund. I have also been fortunate to serve as a committee member of Alumni and Friends of UMBC (AFUMBC) along with UMBC alumni Ronald Hawkins ’79, Joyce Nance Frierson ’79, Daibeth Saunders ’78, Eric Talley ’79 and Warren Wilson ’72. Over the years, AFUMBC has raised funds for the Africana Studies Department and the Second Generation Scholarship Fund.
Q: Is there a particular class or professor who really inspired you?
My first semester at UMBC was brutal, however, I returned to eventually graduate. I started taking African American Studies course each semester and it gave me the writing skill set and confidence to perform well in my courses. The fifth floor in the administration building was a place that provided some cultural and political experiences and emotional healing during a period of widespread educational integration. The instructors and staff welcomed the us and treated us as “special” people
Q: What advice would you give to students considering UMBC?
UMBC provides a superb education and prepares a student well for the professional and business world. Each time I visit UMBC, which is often, I feel very proud to be an alumnus and to let everyone know that I attended such a fine institution. Through the Sigma Beta Club (youth mentoring) and my inner-city youth program, I try to bring as many young Black males to the campus, as possible. Dr. Hrabowski has been very encouraging and supportive with the youth and has given high school students his email address to keep him informed of their progress.